Caoine Spaces for vocalising grief. The de-ritualisation and re-ritualisation of keening in contemporary Ireland
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionCollins, M. Caoine Spaces for vocalising grief. The de-ritualisation and re-ritualisation of keening in contemporary Ireland. Master thesis, Telemark University College, 2014
In this master’s thesis I investigate the trajectory over time of the cultural practice of keening (the Irish funeral cry) – an improvised, sung oral poetry combined with choruses of wailing cries, performed at wakes and funerals. This pre-Christian tradition was primarily performed by women and ceased to be commonplace at funerals from the early twentieth century. The contemporary keen now presents itself in two contexts: Keening ceremonies, and keening used as part of Holistic Voice Therapy. I seek to contextualise the keens reemergence in Irish society and develop a greater understanding of this cultural practice in its present form. Unlike the works of a number of scholars of folklore, music and literature solely concerned with the traditional keen, that have preceded, this thesis considers the contemporary uses of the keen, aiming to better understand it and to possibly determine the significance of its reappearance in Ireland today. Through participant observation of contemporary uses of the keen, interviewing key informants and through lived experience of it, I identify and analyse the form, context and function of keening today. I interpret this information, abstracting broader themes and generalizations about contemporary Ireland from the data. I discuss what these data may indicate about present day Ireland. This project aims to gain an integrated understanding of the tradition of keening through study of the history of keening, practice of the keen both individually and in groups, and through interviews with people who use the keen today. The presentation of the practical work – a sound installation – is the culmination of this research, the resultant combination of the learned and lived experience of keening today.