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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy

Second Committee Member

Robert Casillo

Third Committee Member

Thomas Goodmann

Fourth Committee Member

Renee A. Fox

Fifth Committee Member

Philip O'Leary


This project is a source study of the materials used by William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory to create their own adaptations of Irish Heroic literature during the period known as the Irish Literary Revival. I explore how both Yeats and Gregory sought to create a model of Irish culture that could serve as an effective alternative to the militant nationalism of the Young Ireland movement, thereby creating a shared sense of cultural memory among the Irish that could be more powerful than any military endeavor. In Chapter One, I provide an overview of Irish antiquarianism. Chapter Two’s focus is Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne and Gods and Fighting Men, where I delve deeply into the nearly dozen sources she used to compose her version of the Irish "Deirdre” legend in order to counteract the notion that Irish literature was barbarous, indecent, and low in tone and stature. In my analysis, I demonstrate how Lady Gregory wove together different sections from widely different versions of the tale in order to create a composite that was fitting for emulation by the Irish people and would rebut the charges of indecency leveled at early Irish literature as a whole. Chapter Three explores the early mythological work of W.B. Yeats, particularly how he altered his portrayals of one of the most famous heroes in Irish literature, Fergus mac Róich, in order to both espouse the Irish heroic code as a worthy exemplar for the Irish populace while simultaneously exposing its weaknesses. Chapter Four builds on Chapter Three, investigating how Yeats used the Irish hero Cú Chulainn to sharply critique the modern political class while coming to grips with the fact that the heroic code was not a viable way to build a more positive form of Irish nationalism. This glimpse into how each of these writers adapted their source materials reveals the powerful duty each felt towards the nation, the Irish people, and the Irish literary movement.


W.B. Yeats; Lady Gregory; Irish literature; Irish Revival; medieval literature; Celtic literature