Few words are as evocative and intriguing as ‘Celtic’, bringing to mind the intricacies of Bronze Age jewellery, the massive structures of Stonehenge and Newgrange, the legends of Arthur and Cú Chulainn and the Bardic craft of medieval kings and princes. But ‘Celtic’ is also about the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the New World; Romanticism, Revolution and the struggles for survival in modernity of languages, literatures and entire national identities.

This new The Celts MA from Bangor University gives students the opportunity and ability to sift fact and fiction, and to answer in detail the question:

‘Who were – and who are – the Celts?’

Over a single academic year, modules will be taught by experts in the Schools of Welsh, History, and Music, focusing on literature, archaeology, religion, mythology, antiquarianism, art history and music, to explore the culture and identity of the Celtic peoples from the hillforts of prehistory to the devolved and independent parliaments of today.

Students on the The Celts MA will also be guided as they perform their own research towards a Master’s thesis on a topic of their choice.

All instruction is available through English or Welsh, and comprehensive ESOL support is available where necessary.

Major issues covered on the MA ‘Y Celtiaid – The Celts’ include:

  • Do ‘The Celts’ actually exist, and if so, who and what are they? How can we discuss such questions, with what methodology and with what evidence?
  • How has the word itself (‘Celt’, ‘Keltoi’, etc.) been used through the centuries, from Classical historians to modern pop musicians?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of ‘Celtomania’ and ‘Celtoscepticism’? How has the concept of the ‘Celt’ has been discovered and discarded in various fields such as Literature, Archaeology, Linguistics, Music, Religion?
  • How did nineteenth-century Continental scholars contribute to the creation of the ‘Celt’?
  • How do and how did the Celtic-speaking peoples negotiate their own identities? What do the medieval texts (Laws, Legends, Court Poetry, Saints’ Lives) and archaeological findings tell us, and what does recent history have to say?
  • What are the main sources of evidence for the histories and identities of the ‘Celtic’ peoples (i.e. those speaking Celtic languages in the modern period)? How do we use these sources? Can Arthur and Cú Chulainn tell us anything useful?
  • How have the ethnic and national identities of the modern ‘Celts’ been represented and negotiated with reference to this concept of the ‘Celtic’?
  • What has been – and what is – the political and ideological relevance of the ‘Celt’?

With issues such as these in mind, the MA ‘Y Celtiaid – The Celts’ is designed to develop participants’ skills through a scheme of specialist advanced study. An important objective is to provide participants with relevant analytical training, so that they are familiar with the latest theoretical and practical developments relating to Celtic Studies. On completing this course, students will have a solid grounding in the main methods and sources of the discipline, and will also have developed widely-transferrable skills which will be of clear relevance to a broad range of careers.

Study Details:

MA 1 year full-time, up to 3 years part-time

Module Details:

The The Celts MA is a one-year (full-time) course, and it may also be taken part-time (normally up to three years). The degree programme consists of two parts:

Part 1

This is a wholly taught component, contributing 120 credits. All taught modules carry a credit weighting of 40 credits. Part 1 is taught during the two semesters which make up the academic year. Teaching during semester 1 normally runs from late September to December. Teaching during Semester 2 normally runs from late January to early May.

Modules in Part 1 will be assessed by essay.

Part 2:

This consists of a supervised Dissertation of around 20,000 words, on a topic of your choice, decided upon in consultation with a thesis advisor. This is completed during the summer months, from late May to September, and full-time students should submit their Dissertation by September in the calendar year following initial registration.

Compulsory Modules:

The Celts: Fundamentals: This module introduces the main sources for information about the ‘Celts’, based on two different definitions of ‘Celtic’. These definitions are interrogated as the evidence is explored. This evidence is mainly: ( i) the use of the word itself (‘Celt’, ‘Keltoi’, etc.) in identification or self-identification; (ii) the prime sources concerning attitudes to the history and identity of the ‘Celts’ (defined here as those peoples who speak or spoke a Celtic language in the Modern period.

There are four main areas:

  1. Evidence from Classical historians: texts from authors such as Athaneus, Caesar, etc., where the Celts are mentioned explicitly.
  2. Archaeological and visual evidence, such as Hallstatt, La Tène, art history and the change of archaeological paradigms in the 20th century.
  3. Linguistic evidence: nineteenth-century linguistics and the discovery/creation of Indo-European (and thus the Celtic languages).
  4. More recent historical and literary evidence: the chief sources for the history of the recent (i.e. medieval and post-medieval)  ‘Celts’: chronicles and Laws, prose tales and bardic traditions, recent history

The Creation of the Modern Celt: In this module, we explore how the concept of the ‘Celt’ and the ‘Celtic’ was used and manipulated in the Modern period. We consider a wide range of discourses (e.g., linguistics, archaeology, anthropology, art, music, literature, politics). We explore what is considered as ‘Celtic’ material in these various fields, and discuss the main arguments which have been forwarded in the course of defining the term. Attention is also paid to the ideological reasons for the urge to use these concepts, and the influence this has on the ethnic and national identities of the ‘Celts’ themselves. This module therefore, in comparison with Module 1, shifts the focus from the empirical to the interpretative, and the use of these interpretations.

There are four main areas:

  1. Shifting attitudes towards the ‘Celt’ in various academic fields. I.e., methodological and ideological changes in Linguistics, Archaeology, Physical Anthropology.
  2. The ‘Celts’ in non-literary artistic media (especially Art, Music).
  3. The ‘Celts’ in the Romantic period, with consideration of how the medieval literature (mainly Welsh and Irish) was rediscovered and reinterpreted. Figures such as Ossian and Iolo Morganwg will be considered, and attention will also be paid to the development of Celtic Studies as an academic field in European universities.
  4. The political ‘Celt’: theories of nationalism and the rôles played by ‘Celticity’ in politics from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

Optional Modules:

A third module will be chosen by the student from among a range offered by various Schools in the University. This will allow the student to pursue his/her particular interests and, potentially, to begin to focus on material for the Dissertation.

Welsh Literature Option: This module explores the main aspects of medieval ‘Celtic’ literacy, in poetry and prose, across a range of genres from the prose legends and the court poetry to the laws and the vitae (Lives of Saints and rulers). The main focus is on Wales and Ireland, but the other Celtic languages will also be considered.

Equally, we consider the continuation of these early traditions into the modern period up to the current day, and we ask what this evidence tells us about the attitudes of Celtic-language speakers to the concept of the ‘Celtic’. Visual and musical media are also given attention, and students will develop a critical awareness of the primary sources which are represented and misrepresented in many discussions of the ‘Celtic’.

This module has five main areas:

  1. ‘Mythology’: the evidence for gods and religion in the early period
  2. Manuscripts and literacy: the main manuscripts of the Welsh and Irish traditions
  3. Church and Saints: the ‘institution’ of the Celtic Church and Celtic Christianity
  4. Prose: the Mabinogion and the Irish Cycles
  5. Poetry: the Bard and the bardic order in Wales and Ireland; the traditions of praise and satire; contemporary poetry and the Eisteddfod.

Non Welsh-speaking students may also take full advantage of the learning opportunities provided here in this Celtic-speaking heartland, either by attending a summer course in advance of the University year, or by taking advantage of weekly lessons on campus. Or both.


Entry Requirements

Entry to the MA programme requires a good undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, e.g. literature, history, folklore, mythology, comparative literature, archaeology, anthropology from a university, or a similar qualification from any other institution. Alternatively, possession of a suitable professional qualification and relevant practical experience may also be accepted. In general, however, applicants are judged on their individual merits and age; work experience and other factors are also considered.

We welcome applications from good graduates in relevant disciplines and from those with equivalent professional qualification and work experience.

If your native language is not English or Welsh, you must provide satisfactory evidence that you have an adequate knowledge and understanding of written and spoken English or Welsh.

Welsh-language courses are available which would enable students who wish to study through the medium of Welsh to develop their skills. Please contact us for details.

IELTS and Internet-based TOEFL test scores of no less than 6.0 and 87 respectively, are usually acceptable for thoes who would study through the medium of English. It may be necessary for applicants falling short of this minimum standard to attend an intensive English Language course before registering for the academic programme. Such a course is available at Bangor, and full details and an application form may be obtained from:

ELCOS: Tel: +44 (0)1248 382 252  e-mail:;website:

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