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HUMANITIES 183 I*~ 2 J I JJ J I tJ d 81 J *II 8 Ro-se cui no - is ne ge Ie e. The author has nonetheless worked out her own original musical solutions based on a sotmd knowledge of the poetry, and these are a refreshing departure from the drab stemless notes widely used nowadays. If understood simply as 'musically plausible choices' intended primarily for performers, these transcriptions, together with Epstein's excellent poetic studYJ will serve as a useful startingpoint for both performers and scholars in the exploration of the trouvere devotional repertoire. (JOHN HAINES) Joanne Findon. A Woman's Words: Emer and Female Speech in the Ulster Cycle University of Toronto Press 1997. xiv, 212. $35.00 Joanne Findon's concise study of the speech attributed to one woman in four prose sagas of the medieval Irish Ulster Cycle is welcome as a literary study in an area which, with a few honourable exceptions, has been better served by students of language and myth than by literary critics. While Findon draws extensively on such 'vertical' readings in her analysis, her own examination of the texts and the women characters they present employs horizontal reading strategies developed through critical theory and feminist theory, and already applied in other areas of medieval women's studies. Erner is the wife of Cli Chulainn, the Irish Achilles, who is the central character of the prose epic Tain B6 Cuailnge, and also appears in the satellite tales considered here. Findon contends that the words attributed to her and to other women are much more than a ventriloquistic voicing ofpatriarchal discourse; they are speech acts, she argues, ways of doing things with words, as J.L. Austin famously proposed in 1962. By methodical analysis of the words spoken by Emer and other women in these four tales, and by placing them in the contexts she has so authoritatively delineated in her introduction, Fmdon demonstrates that far from being an untamed force of nature, constituted in opposition to culture, Erner in the fictions of the Ulster Cycle represents the most civilized values ofthe imagined society in which she lives. In the first two stories studied, The Wooing of Erner and Bricriu's Feast, Erner's language conforms to the contours of heroic life, enhances the honour of her hero husband and confirms his status; in the third and fourth, however, The Death ofAife's Only Son and The Wasting Sickness ofea 184 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 Chulainn, her role is more confrontational. These latter are the sources, respectively, for W.B. Yeats's plays, On Baile's Strand and The Only Jealousy of Emer, where Yeats offered his own readings of their tragic complexity. The words of the childless Erner in The Death ofAife's Only Son attempt (but fail) to dissuade her husband from following his heroic code to its logical, disastrous, conclusion, whereupon Connla, Cli Chulainn'sson byAffe, dies at his father's hand. The Wasting Sickness ofCtl Chulainn centres on the motif of the 'fairy mistress,' found in other medieval Irish narratives, and in modern oral storytelling, where a woman from the Otherworld makes sexual advances to the mortal hero, threatening the whole fabric of his social life. Pindon suggests that Emer!s words, reminding her husband of their former happiness, have the effect of beginning his break with Fand, his fairy mistress, and his return to her. This seems incontestable,butitmay be added that her words also amount to a reassertion ofthe human contract between them: something which can be relied on, in stories of this shape, to triumph over the seductions of the Otherworld. Although the Ulster cycle is the product of many minds and hands over hundreds of years, this study shows Emer as a remarkably consistent literary construct: a noble and articulate woman who is the equal of her husband and whose speech, significantly, is not censured or silenced by the authors who report it. Women's Words is a scrupulously scholarly work - a third of the total is devoted to an appendix on sources and manuscripts, notes! bibliography, and index - and each of the four chapters begins with a literature review and a summary of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 183-184
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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