Jedi Anchorites and Early Ireland

I went to see the new Star Wars film on my birthday. I feel now that the movie has been out for a few weeks that I could discuss the striking final scene. This final scene is also of great interest to any one wants to understand and appreciate the early Irish subtext of the final scene and how this may play out in the future.

Spoilers Ahead

Citations In the Humanities (Update)

This is a followup from this post. You will want to read that first before continuing.

I just wanted to let everyone know that the British Library now has a means like the Library of Congress to link to specific books. This is called the “British National Bibliography” and is available at This should ease the problem of some books not being available from the Library of Congress. For instance, Bechbretha has a URL of You can place extensions at the end to get various formats: for example will get you the RDF version of the document.

Things are now to the point where we can really drop most citation frameworks and go straight with something that looks like my citation proposal.

Book Review: The Origins of the Irish

The Origins of the Irish, J. P. Mallory, Thames & Hudson: London, 2013, ISBN:9780500051757

To give away the game before starting, I would like to say that this book would be an excellent addition to the library of anyone who has an interest in the pre-history of Ireland. While it is not my area of expertise, it illuminated much which I had already gleaned from the writings of others; however, this was done in a highly engaging and effective way. One of the main advantages of this book is the way in which the key points are gathered at the end of each chapter which reminds the reader of all the foregoing material. This would easily make this a book which should appear in any Celtic Studies course. The additional factor which makes this book even more valuable is the easy style and humour of one who has an absolute command of the primary and secondary material. However, this is not a book without its flaws which will be discussed anon.

Open Access: Second Thoughts

I have always been a proponent of Open Access scholarship. The days where dissemination of scholarship cost a significant amount of money are over. However, I am having some second thoughts. Most of these lie in the fact that, while I like open access, I like academic freedom even more. It is this juncture that bothers me the most.

Open Access began mostly in the sciences as a reaction to the fact that science publishers were continuing to mark-up the amount it cost to purchase journals without thinking of the stagnating and declining library budgets. This has lead to a confrontation between libraries and publishers in the sciences. The outcome of this continuing debate is two forms of Open Access called “Green”, preferred by libraries and university administrators, and “Gold”, preferred by the UK government and publishers. A good discussion of the pros and cons can be found here.

My main concern comes from the fact that, whatever kind of Open Access you choose, they are backed by mandates from funders and university administrators. This is the most problematic part of Open Access from my point of view. The tradition is that scholars knew their audiences and were free to write and research for them in whatever venue they best knew. Now, however, there is a thick layer of “research managers” who are ever more insistent that they know scholarship better than those who actually do the scholarship or research. This, coupled with the statistically dubious impact factor, is now the driving narrative around Open Access.

For the Humanities, all of these debates are being foisted upon them as, in their reality, nothing much has changed. Monographs and journals are still reasonably priced. Scholarship continues just as it has for many, many years. The reality is that most readers who maybe interested in the output of Humanities scholars prefer physical books to ebooks. This means that there just is no market or interest in Open Access online monographs or books.

The point is that university administrators are now using Open Access as a tool of control over the scholastic process, which was always managed by the academics themselves. This is causing a slow moving power struggle between them with Open Access getting a bad name in the Humanities in the process. This is mainly an administrative over-reach and a dismissive attitude towards the Humanities, whether justified or not, by those in positions of influence or power. Although, I will maintain that Humanities scholars have remained myopic in the face of the rise of new communications technologies.

I guess my new stance is that Open Access is a good idea but the implementation is awful and seriously needs re-evaluation in light of the principles of Academic Freedom and a respect for those who actually engage in research and scholarship, which seems missing from the current climate of debate.

Some Diagnostic Features of Middle Irish

A friend of mine, with whom I am teaching Old Irish, asked for some diagnostic features of Middle Irish so I thought I would put it here to help them and anyone else who may want to know.


There are many different features which mark the change from Old to Middle Irish. Much of this is discussed in much more detail in Kim McCone’s “A First Old Irish Grammar and Reader” pp. 173—217. I will give a small prĂ©cis of this here. For a more full account for verbs, see Kim McCone “The Early Irish Verb” pp. 163—240. A full analysis by Liam Breatnach is detailed in “Stair na Gaelige” pp. 221—333. The main problem with Breatnach’s analysis is that it is entirely in Modern Irish so unless you know that language first, or you enjoy typing and trust Google Translate, it will be inaccessible to you.