Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Anita Sauckel

“A man is mortified naked”

Clothing and Fashion in Íslendingasögur

Fimmtudaginn 30. mars 2017 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Anita Sauckel

Although the last ten years have witnessed a number of relevant publications, a broader scholarly discussion of the literary significance of clothing in Icelandic saga literature is still due. In an attempt at stimulating further debate, my paper will focus on the complex narrative of clothing in Íslendingasögur.

Exclusive, fashionable garments made from costly woollens and even silk play an important role within the saga-plot: at European royal courts they serve as gifts to enhance young Icelander’s social rank; young women of Iceland’s leading families show themselves exclusively dressed at the thing assemblies to find a suitable husband; chieftains like Egill Skalla-Grímsson demonstrate their power by appearing in elaborately dyed coats at the local thing sites.

However, the depiction of clothing does not simply serve the characterisation of high-status protagonists: it influences the plot’s outcome, reflects social norms within the “saga-society” and expresses emotions like love, aggression and sorrow.
In my paper I will present these manifold notions of clothing in Íslendingasögur from different points of view. To what extent does clothing influence the plot? How are the different kinds of fabrics connoted? Does clothing as depicted in the sagas correspond to historical garments from the Viking age?

Anita Sauckel is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Iceland. She has worked as a lecturer in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Greifswald (Germany), where she taught courses on Old Norse language, literature and culture. Anita studied in Munich (Germany) and Bergen (Norway), and holds a Dr. phil. from the LMU Munich. Her areas of research include Íslendingasögur, narratology, medieval clothing and textiles, and archaeology.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Massimiliano Bampi

Approaching generic hybridity in saga literature

The case of Víglundar saga

Fimmtudaginn 23. mars 2017 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

massimilio-bampi
Massimiliano Bampi

A relevant number of sagas from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have been defined in international scholarship as generic hybrids as they combine stylistic traits and fictional worlds that are held to characterize different genres, according to the taxonomy of saga literature currently employed. If viewed from the perspective of a systemic approach, this kind of generic hybridity is by and large the result of movements within the system of genres in the late Middle Ages, both synchronically and diachronically. An analysis of such movements may help us explain the forms of contamination that involve most saga genres. Quite interstingly, manuscript evidence suggests that the Icelandic literary system in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is characterized by a prominence of genres such as the riddarasögur and the fornaldarsögur (especially the more fantastic Abenteuersagas), which come to exert an influence even on the younger Íslendingasögur (e.g., Grettis saga, Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, and Víglundar saga). This change in the centre of the system of saga genres — which determines which genres are most influential, and can therefore exert an influence both on the writing of new sagas and on the copying of older ones — is coeval with and related to a shift in ideology that occurred when Iceland became part of the territories of the Norwegian Crown, from 1262-64 on, and an Icelandic service aristocracy began to arise. It is therefore clear that the dynamics that operate within the social and political systems have a bearing on the development of the literary system in the late Middle Ages in Iceland, and should thus be taken into proper consideration.

In this talk I will discuss how we can approach the question of generic hybridity in late medieval Iceland by analyzing Víglundar saga as a late ĺslendingasaga, in which the combination of two fictional worlds can be read as illustrating the clash of different world views.

Massimiliano Bampi is Associate Professor of Germanic Philology at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His main research interests include the definition of genre in saga literature, the role of translation in the development of vernacular literatures in the medieval North, and intertextual reading in Icelandic and Swedish manuscripts.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Shaun F. D. Hughes

‘The Never-Ending Story’

Saga Writing from Ari Þorgilsson to Bergsveinn Birgisson

Fimmtudaginn 16. mars 2017 kl 16.30
Odda 101

shaun-hughes-2
Shaun F. D. Hughes

For much of the twentieth century, scholarship on the Íslendingasögur was focused largely on arguing that these works were fiction rather than history. Now that a consensus seems to have been reached that this is in fact the case, perhaps the time has come to reconsider the sagas again as history, not “History” as contemporary historians understand it, but “Saga” as it was understood in the thirteenth and subsequent centuries. Such re-evaluation consists of two parts. The first is to analyse the writing of sögur in the light of recent French scholarship on the writing of “Histoire” which addresses such questions as “what does it mean to create the past” and “why does one ‘construct’ history?” Scholars drawn upon here include: Catherine Croizy-Naquet, Écrire l’histoire romaine au début du xiiie siècle (1999); Aimé Petit, L’anachronisme dans les romans antiques du xiie siècle (2002); Francine Mora-Lebrun, “Metre en romanz” (2008); and Pierre Courroux, L’Écriture de l’histoire dans les chroniques françaises (2016).

But there is a major difference between French “histoire” and Icelandic “Saga.” Saga-writing did not come to a halt in the 14th century as some literary histories suggest, but continues down to the present as witness the appearance of Geirmundar saga heljarskinns in 2015. The period of Icelandic history before the conversion to Christianity in the year 1000, I argue, was imagined as a collective “subcreation” in Tolkien’s sense as developed in his essay “On Fairy-stories.” Nor is this a modern phenomenon. I would argue that this collective subcreation is already very much evident in the thirteenth century when the classical family sagas were composed. This subcreation or secondary World, the world of pre-Christian Iceland, like Middle-earth or Westeros, is a consistent imaginative world, into which Icelandic authors of the thirteenth century and later could insert their narratives.

The fifteenth-century Víglundar saga og Ketilríðar and Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífls are given a place in the prestigious Íslensk fornrit series even though the latter involves characters found nowhere else. Guðni Jónsson was sufficiently far-sighted to include in his Íslendingasagnaútgáfan edition Ármanns saga ok Þorsteins gála, Ásmundar saga Atlasonar, Helga saga Hallvarðssonar, Illuga saga Tagldarbana, Þjóstólfs saga hamramma, and Þorsteins saga Geirnefjufóstra but his precedent has been ignored by subsequent editors. As Halldór Kiljan Laxness noted back in 1945, the Íslendingasögur are more a reflection of the time they were written rather than the time they were writing about. Even the earliest sagas are unreliable as a record of settlement Iceland. Therefore I argue that we should open up the canon to include all sögur and in the process open up our understanding how of the past continued to live in the present for successive generations of Icelanders, and why this past continued to be so immediate that they never ceased writing about it.

Shaun F. D. Hughes (Ph.D., University of Washington, 1972) is Professor of English at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, where he is Director of Literary Studies and former Director of English Language and Linguistics (2010-2016). He also serves as Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Liberal Arts. His research areas include Old Norse and early Modern Icelandic Studies.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Astrid Ogilvie

Sagas and Science

Documentary Evidence of Changes in Climate and Sea-Ice Incidence in Iceland from the Settlement to the late 1800s

Fimmtudaginn 9. mars 2017 kl. 16.30
Oddi 101

Astrid Ogilvie

Iceland is well known for its rich literary tradition that includes a wealth of historical records containing accounts of climate and weather. In this presentation, some of these sources will be described and evaluated, and the information gathered from them will be used to cast light on variations in the climate of Iceland over the last 1000 years or so. Prior to AD 1600 the data are fairly sporadic, but after that time it is possible to re-construct temperature and sea-ice indices. A scrutiny of the sources indicates that there has been a great deal of climatic variability from early settlement times to the present day. From ca. 1640 to ca. 1680 there appears to have been little sea ice off Iceland’s coasts. During the period 1600 to 1850, the decades with most ice present were probably the 1780s, early 1800s and the 1830s. From 1840 to 1855 there was virtually no ice off the coasts. From that time to 1860 there was frequent ice again, although the incidence does not seem to have been as heavy as in the earlier part of the century. Further clusters of sea-ice years occurred again from ca. 1864 to 1872. Several very heavy sea-ice years occurred during the 1880s. From 1900 onwards sea-ice incidence falls off dramatically. As regards temperature variations, a cooling trend may be seen around the beginning and end of the seventeenth century. However, these periods are separated by a mild period from ca. 1640 to 1670. The early decades of the 1700s were relatively mild in comparison with the very cold 1690s, 1730s, 1740s and 1750s. The 1760s and 1770s show a return to a milder regime in comparison. The 1780s are likely to have been the coldest decade of the century, but this was compounded by volcanic activity. The 1801s, 1830s and 1880s were also comparatively cold.

Astrid Ogilvie’s PhD thesis was on climate and society in Iceland. Her current research includes both climate history and current Arctic issues. She was the 2014 Nansen Professor of Arctic Studies at the University of Akureyri. She is a Senior Scientist at the Stefansson Arctic Institute in Akureyri and a Fellow of Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Luke John Murphy

Between Unity and Diversity

Articulating Pre-Christian Nordic Religion and its Spaces in the Late Iron Age

Fimmtudaginn 2. mars 2017 kl 16.30
Odda 101

Luke John Murphy

There is a growing acceptance that pre-Christian religion in the Nordic region was not a single monolithic cultural system, but rather varied along a range of geographic, social, temporal, and even cognitive axes. Despite this, relatively little scholarly attention has yet been paid to distinct articulations of Late Iron Age Nordic religion, with both the physical and social settings of religious praxis notably understudied. This talk presents the findings of a recent doctoral dissertation at University of Aarhus, which sought to contribute to the emerging discourse of diversity and variation in pre-Christian religion in the Germanic Nordic cultural area during the Late Iron Age (c. 500-1200 AD).

Drawing on medieval textual accounts, archaeological evidence, and toponymic data, the tension between the twin tendencies towards unity and diversity in a range of Late Iron Age religious contexts are explored. Models of pre-Christian religion\s in a range of settings — from public cult at Gotlandic þing-sites to household religion in settlement-age Iceland — are analysed with tools and methods developed in the wider History of Religions, leading to the conclusion that pre-Christian Nordic religion was practiced in a range of physical and social settings, and exhibited remarkable diversity over the course of the Late Iron Age.

It is therefore argued that while we can meaningfully speak of “pre-Christian Nordic religion” in the singular, to do so is best done when comparing or contrasting Nordic paganism to other religions. A number of more or less distinct pre-Christian Nordic religion\s are also identified, including those that appear to have been particular geographic articulations of the wider religion; those that employed different sacrally-charged spaces in their pursuit of hierophany and kratophany; and those that appear to have been the religious output of a distinct social unit. It is hoped that these findings will prove relevant not only to scholars and students of Late Iron Age religion, but also to fields including the Study of Religion, Scandinavian History, and Viking Studies.

Luke John Murphy has recently submitted his PhD dissertation at Aarhus University. He is presently teaching Pre-Christian Nordic Religion at Háskóli Íslands, and will take up a Bernadotte Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Stockholm University in autumn 2017. His research interests include religious variation, female supranatural beings, and method and theory in the study of Pre-Christian Nordic religion.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

François Lachaud

Warriors, Monks, and Angry Ghosts

The World of Japanese Medieval Epics (950-1450)

Þriðjudaginn 21. febrúar 2017 kl 16.30
Lögbergi 101

François Lachaud

Japanese medieval epics—also known as “war chronicles” (J. gunki monogatari)—have remained the most popular works of Japanese literature. No other genre exerted such a considerable influence on Japanese culture. To this very day, the legacies of medieval chronicles can be observed in countless plays, visual adaptations (from painted scrolls to animation movies), in the genesis of modern historiography, and in controversial debates on national identity. Compared to Classical Court literature (950-1150)—often considered as the perfect embodiment of a remote Japanese Golden Age—medieval epics are still widely read and performed in their original language. The (partial) adaptation of the Heike monogatari in a romanised transcription published in 1592 by the Jesuit mission press at Amakusa, known today as the first work of Japanese literature to appear in print, confirms that, even “under Western eyes”, medieval epics were the works in which the most elevated style was to be found.
After a brief introduction to representative works in chronological sequence—i.e. Shōmonki (Chronicle of [Taira no] Masakado), Hōgen monogatari (The Tale of [the]Hōgen Rebellion), Heike monogatari (The Tale of the Heike), Taiheiki (Chronicle of the Great Peace), and “individual epics” such as Gikeiki (A Chronicle of [Minamoto no] Yoshitsune) and Soga monogatari (Tales of the Soga Brothers)—the presentation focuses on central themes including performance and textuality (intertextuality), warrior-ethos and representations of war, vengeful spirits and Buddhist salvation. Epic chronicles have often been read as the most significant source of information on medieval warrior culture, sometimes overlooking the differences between them and so-called historical tales (rekishi monogatari), especially “mirror-literature” (kagami mono). Current research projects emphasise the importance of comparative studies to reach a better understanding of their role in shaping Japanese national consciousness. Using a wide array of sources (both written and visual), the aim of this talk is to provide a general overview of the genre and to present new lines of approach.

François Lachaud is professor at the École française d’Extrême-Orient (Buddhism and Japanese Civilisation) and teaches at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Department of Religious Studies). He is trained in philology and in art history, and he is currently studying medieval Japanese epics their legacies.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

András Vadas

Little Ice Age and East Central Europe

Sources, results, and limitations

Fimmtudaginn 16. febrúar 2017 kl 16.30
Odda 101

andras-vadas-copy
András Vadas

In most parts of Western and West Central Europe, the period from the early fourteenth century onward is considered to be an important period of medieval climate and environmental history. The fourteenth century is usually referred to as the beginning of the transition from the Medieval Climatic anomaly to the Little Ice Age, followed by a more or less constant colder period ending in the nineteenth century. These climatic fluctuations have been demonstrated in Western Europe by both historical sources and scientific means. Due to the relative scarcity of written sources and scientific studies, the validity of the climatic epochs in East Central Europe is, however, far less evident.

The presentation aims at showing the research possibilities of climate history in East Central Europe with special attention to the potential of historical and archaeological sources both in identifying long-term trends and short-term weather events. Some individual weather events will be discussed. On the one hand, the weather events of the 1310s, the period of the so-called great famine in NW-Europe, as well as the impact of the eruption of the Laki in 1783 to the weather of East Central Europe.

András Vadas is Assistant Professor at the Department of Medieval European History at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. His main research interests are the climate and environmental history of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Times.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Jan Alexander van Nahl

“I never use minted coins”

Andreas Heusler in 21st-century medieval studies

Fimmtudaginn 9. febrúar 2017 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Jan Alexander van Nahl
Jan Alexander van Nahl

Andreas Heusler III (1865–1940) ranks among the most influential scholars in medieval studies, and his manifold publications cover linguistics, poetics, literary and cultural history, and law, as well as saga translations; twice he visited Iceland. The impact of Heusler’s oeuvre on twentieth-century scholarship (and thus likewise scholarship today) can hardly be overestimated. Repeatedly it has been suggested that a critical re-reading of Heusler’s most successful studies was overdue, as it would enable scholars to reflect upon the present state and future capabilities of Scandinavian Studies in particular.

However, beyond German-language borders, Heusler’s far-sighted thoughts have been adopted only to a small degree. In an attempt at explaining this strange disregard, in 2005, Margaret Clunies Ross claimed that “in order to be aware of what Heusler wrote, one has to be able to understand his German in its distinctively Heuslerian prose”. Heusler’s stylistically unvarnished way of putting thoughts down in writing has often been highlighted as a crucial aspect of his success within German scholarship. Thus it does not come as a surprise that attempts at translating key aspects of Heusler’s ideas into English fell short. Yet, as Heusler in his many surviving letters pointed out himself, his gnarled style was above all the result of careful considerations and – Heusler’s well-known musicality.

It is against this background that my lecture seeks to illustrate challenges of both a re-reading of Andreas Heusler’s oeuvre and, thereby, an intensified debate among medievalists beyond language borders.

Jan Alexander van Nahl studied in Bonn/Germany and Uppsala/Sweden, and holds a Dr. phil. from the university of Munich. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Iceland and the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. Jan has published on Old Norse literature, History of Science, Theology, Modern Literature, and the Digital Humanities.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Hjalti Snær Ægisson

Lollardar og brauðslíking herrans

Kruðerí úr kirkjusögu 15. aldar

Fimmtudaginn 2. febrúar 2017 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Hjalti Snær Ægisson

Lollardar voru trúarhópur í Englandi á 15. öld sem átti upphaf sitt í fylgismönnum John Wyclif (1320–1384). Meginmarkmið lollarda var að stuðla að umbótum innan kirkjunnar og hefur Wyclif lengi verið túlkaður sem einn af táknrænum forverum Lúthers í hefðbundinni söguskoðun. Kenningar og viðhorf lollarda lúta einkum að framkvæmd messunnar og kirkjulegra sakramenta. Framlag þeirra til alþýðufræðslu í Englandi er jafnframt mikilvægt og ensk biblíuþýðing Wyclifs hlaut töluverða útbreiðslu. Ótvíræð tengsl hreyfingarinnar við bændauppreisnina 1381 áttu eftir að reynast afdrifarík og enska kirkjan afgreiddi hugmyndir lollarda sem villutrú.

Síðustu þrjá áratugi hefur orðið mikil vakning í rannsóknum á lollördum, menningarsköpun þeirra og trúarviðhorfum. Allmargir fræðimenn í hinum enskumælandi heimi hafa tekið þátt í frjórri og lifandi umræðu um upphaf og eðli lollardanna, tengslin við Wyclif og áhrif og útbreiðslu þeirra skoðana sem þeir aðhylltust. Afstaða veraldlegra og kirkjulegra yfirvalda í Englandi til lollarda hafa verið könnuð í þaula, framhaldslíf kennisetninga þeirra á meginlandi Evrópu og hugsanleg áhrif á siðbreytingu 16. aldarinnar. Stiklað verður á stóru um þessa fræðilegu umræðu og gerð grein fyrir helstu álitaefnum sem verið hafa í forgrunni.

Loks verður fjallað um hugsanlega snertifleti lollarda við íslenska kirkjusögu. Engar beinar heimildir hafa varðveist um lollarda á íslensku en ekki er óhugsandi að meðvitundin um þá hafi skilað sér í þeim ritheimildum sem rekja má til Englands. Ísland hafði umtalsverð tengsl við England á 15. öld, jafnt á sviði verslunar og kirkju, og sátu enskir biskupar á báðum biskupsstólunum um árabil. Horft verður sérstaklega til Jóns Vilhjálmssonar Craxton sem sat á Hólum 1426–1435 og reynt að geta í nokkrar af eyðunum sem finna má í sögu hans með hliðsjón af umbótastarfi lollarda.

Hjalti Snær Ægisson er doktorsnemi í almennri bókmenntafræði við Háskóla Íslands. Hann vinnur að rannsókn á norrænum ævintýrum og tengslum þeirra við prédikunarhefð 13. aldar.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2016–2017

Már Jónsson

Creativity or clumsiness?

Scribal discrepancy in seventeenth and eighteenth century Iceland

Fimmtudaginn 26. janúar 2017 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

mar-jonsson-02
Már Jónsson

Post-medieval manuscripts containing medieval texts are currently the subject of increased scholarly attention as a means, firstly, of extending our understanding of the development of Icelandic literary culture, and, secondly, as possible witnesses to vellums that are no longer extant. In both instances, scholars need to determine the relationship between extant manuscripts, making use of appropriate methodologies based on current and earlier research on stemmatic affiliations. Such an approach requires an understanding of the nature of scribal innovation, error, and other voluntary or involuntary variations. In this lecture, I will address these issues by means of (1) some general reflections on the principles of textual criticism developed by Paul Maas over some thirty years from 1927, and (2) three relevant and (hopefully) illuminating case studies. The benchmark will be several copies of Ari fróði’s Íslendingabók, all of which certainly derive from two copies (AM 113 a fol., AM 113 b fol.) made in 1651 by Rev. Jón Erlendsson, who had access to an early vellum text that inexplicably disappeared soon afterwards. The second case study will be a group of manuscripts that appear to derive from Vatnshyrna, a vellum that was destroyed in the 1728 Great Fire of Copenhagen, and that contained several Sagas of Icelanders, including Laxdæla, Eyrbyggja, Vatnsdæla, Hænsa-Þóris saga and the shorter version of Flóamanna saga. The third case study involves the manuscript progeny of a lost vellum of Njála, the so-called Gullskinna, which was copied in several locations between 1640 and 1680, but which then vanished without trace.

Már Jónsson er prófessor í sagnfræði við Háskóla Íslands. Hann hefur skrifað um Árna Magnússon og handrit hans, yngri sem eldri, og fjallað í ræðu og riti um félags- og menningarsögu Íslands frá lokum 13. aldar til loka 19. aldar.

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