Celtic literature may be literature about Celts, or elements of Irish literature, British literature or Celtic-influenced literature from elsewhere. Although often written in English, Celtic literature may be composed in Celtic languages: Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic and Breton or their older forms; literature in Scots and Ulster Scots may also be included within the concept.
The Gaelic Revival reintroduced Celtic themes into modern literature. The concept of Celticity encouraged cross-fertilisation between Celtic cultures. There have been modern texts based around Celtic literature. Bernard Cornwell writes about the Arthurian legends in his series The Warlord Chronicles. Other writers of Celtic literature in English include Dylan Thomas and Sian James.
The introduction of Celtic into Ireland has not been authoritatively
dated, but it cannot be later than the arrival there of the first settlers
of the La Tène culture in the 3rd century bc. The language is often described
in its earliest form as Goídelic,
named after the Celts
(Goídil; singular, Goídel) who spoke it. The modern form, known in English
as Gaelic (in Gaelic called Gaedhilge or Gaeilge), is derived from the
The earliest evidence of Irish Gaelic consists of archaic sepulchral inscriptions in the ogham alphabet based on a system of strokes and notches cut on the edges of stone or wood usually ascribed to the 4th and 5th centuries ad. Writings in the Roman alphabet date from 8th-century glosses in Old Irish, but 7th- and even 6th-century compositions are preserved in much later manuscripts. Four distinct periods are recognizable in Irish Gaelic literature. The early literature (linguistically Archaic, Old, and Early Middle Irish), was composed by a professional class, the fili (singular, fili), and by churchmen. The medieval literature (linguistically late Middle and Classical Modern Irish) was dominated by the lay and hereditary bardic orders. In the late literature (17th century to the end of the 19th) authorship passed into the hands of individuals among the peasants, the class to which most Irish speakers had been reduced, using the dialects into which the language had been broken up. The subsequent revival has continued to the present day.