Further information on Fall 2019 courses


Carol Trosset: Welsh Culture and Language


Course text

Readings for the course will be provided via email in the form of pdf files.  For students who do not use email or do not print-out computer files, the instructor will provide print-outs, the cost of which will be $8-10 for the term’s readings.


Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

September 12 – Overview of Welsh history, geography, and society

  • Participants will share the nature of their interest in Wales, and any past experiences with and perceptions of this and/or other Celtic cultures or languages. Carol will provide an introduction to Welsh history and geography, and share slides from her 2.5 years of anthropological fieldwork there. She will briefly review the topics to be covered in the class and start introducing participants to the Welsh language.

September 19 – Folklore and literature

  • Carol will talk about the place of poetry and literature in Welsh-speaking culture. Participants will discuss a medieval legend and an excerpt from a modern novel, listen to a tape of a modern Welsh storyteller relating a traditional folk tale, and watch a video of a contemporary musical drama about Owain Glyndwr.
  • Reading: one or two stories from The Mabinogion (translation by G. Jones and T. Jones) and an excerpt from translation of Kate Roberts, The Living Sleep.

September 26 – Class and status

  • This session will focus on the historical relationship between language, schooling, religion, and socioeconomic class. Welsh social organization will be contrasted to English class consciousness.
  • Reading: Bobi Jones, “The Roots of Welsh Inferiority” and “Sources of Status” from Trosset, Welshness Performed (1993).

October 10 – Nationalism and politics

  • We will review the political status of Wales in the past and present, and contrast these to the circumstances of England and Scotland. Carol will present information about the Welsh Nationalist political party and the language movement. Participants will be encouraged to share pieces they’ve found on the internet about current Welsh politics in relation to Brexit.
  • Reading: a translation of Saunders Lewis “Tynged yr Iaith” (The State of the Language), an excerpt from Ned Thomas, The Welsh Extremist (1971), and some recent news about the impact of Brexit on Wales.

October 17 – Ethnic identity

  • Carol will present and lead discussion of her field research about what it means to be Welsh, how Welshness is perceived by different groups of people in Wales, and what values and behaviors are commonly associated with a Welsh identity.
  • Reading: Trosset and Caulkins, “Cultural Values and Social Organization: Is Ethnicity the Locus of Culture?” in Rapport, ed., 2002, British Subjects: An Anthropology of Britain.

October 24 – Music, poetry, and the Eisteddfod

  • This session will cover the competitive music and poetry festivals known as eisteddfodau. These happen all over the country, from one-hour events hosted by local clubs to the ten-day national festival. Carol will show slides and play recordings to give participants a taste of types of performances and adjudications that make up this event.
  • Reading: “Persons as Performers” from Trosset, Welshness Performed (1993).

October 31 – Emotion and nostalgia

  • We will discuss the emotional style and content of Welshness, how Welsh people expect each other to feel and to express themselves, and the core concept of hiraeth (nostalgia).
  • Reading: “How to Enjoy Things” and “Being an Emotional Person” from Trosset, Welshness Performed (1993).

November 7 – Patagonia and the Welsh Diaspora

  • Welsh settlers were the first Europeans to occupy southern Argentina, arriving there in 1865. We will discuss the reasons for this emigration and its subsequent history. Carol will give a presentation about her fieldwork in this community, reviewing the similarities and differences between Welsh Patagonians and the Welsh in Wales.
  • Reading: excerpt from Glyn Williams, The Desert and the Dream (1975).