Introduction: Infinite Realms

  • Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Medieval Welsh and Irish texts offer stories of realms that exist in strange contiguity to everyday life, domains often entered through a hill or barrow that seem to be of two worlds at once. The Welsh otherworld of Annwn finds its gateway at Gorsedd Arberth, a mound atop which adventurers like Pwyll sit seeking wonders. In the account of Cú Chulainn’s love for Fand, queen of the mysterious and aboriginal Irish people known as the sídhe, the hero enters a parallel universe through a nondescript tumulus. The Wasting Sickness of Cú Chulainn and the Only Jealousy of Emer [Serglige Con Culainn ocus Óenét Emire] describes the uncanny beings inhabiting this domain as differing from contemporary islanders in their customs, elder history, and potency in magic. Cú Chulainn is cured of self-destructive love for his Fairy Queen only through the intervention of an oblivion spell: he must forget the riches of her world to reinhabit his own. Like many Irish and Welsh stories involving hills as portals, the dominant narrative of The Wasting Sickness of Cú Chulainn seems to enfold within it an untold story about the belatedness of a people to the land they possess, figuring the territory’s earlier inhabitants as an inhuman race whose traces are dwindling, whose presence lingers as if at dimming twilight.


British Isle Dominant Narrative Green Child Parallel Universe British History 
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    Barry Cunliffe, Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples,8000 BC-AD 1500 ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001 ).Google Scholar

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© Jeffrey Jerome Cohen 2008

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  • Jeffrey Jerome Cohen

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