€6 – €25

Before Fairy Tales: Fairy Figures in Early Modern England

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Trinity College

Jonathan Swift Theatre

Arts Block Room 2041A

Dublin, County Dublin

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Before fairies had wings, wands and tutus, a different kind of figure haunted the world of Early Modern England. In the same decade that the fairies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream danced in the minds of Shakespeare’s lovers, James VI’s Demonologie warned of the extreme consequences for involvement with these agents of the devil. In a world obsessed with the supernatural, the fairies occupied a nebulous territory in the early modern imagination veering between evil spirits and wholesome beings. Bringers of death and desire, prosperity and joy, opportunity and danger, this enigmatic figure still provides valuable insight into the early modern English cultural imaginary.

While the fairy figure has almost never escaped popular imaginations, scholars have only recently brought critical attention to the manner in which this figure operates within larger cultural contexts. The work of folklorist Katharine Briggs in 1959, facilitated a slow wave of academic interest that has developed through the turn of the twenty-first century into an examination of the ways that fairies have historically functioned socially, politically, and textually throughout the ages. What emerges from these new perspectives is the pivotal but often conflicting roles that these figures occupied in early modern discourse and the opportunity for further investigation.

This lecture series will seek to understand how the fairy figure operated in the poetry, drama, and narratives of early modern England through the perspectives of five distinguished scholars:


February 22, 2018: James Wade (Christ's College Cambridge)


March 29, 2018: Darren Oldridge (University of Worcester)


April 26, 2018: Matthew Woodcock (University of East Anglia)


May 31, 2018: Diane Purkiss (Oxford University)


June 28, 2018: Kaitlyn Culliton (Trinity College Dublin)


Hosted by the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies.

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Date and Time

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Trinity College

Jonathan Swift Theatre

Arts Block Room 2041A

Dublin, County Dublin

Refund Policy

Refunds up to 7 days before event

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