Monthly Archives: March 2017

Gendering Historical Literacy — Vernacular Writing in the Nordic Countries 18–20th Century

Gendering Historical Literacy

Vernacular Writing in the Nordic Countries, 18–20th Century

Seminar March 31, 2017
University of Iceland, Gimli 102 (1st floor), 14.15–16.30

Five short papers will be given on the representations of gender and vernacular literacy practices in the Nordic countries. The talks will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Í þessari málstofu um rannsóknir á alþýðlegri iðkun læsis og birtingarmyndum kyns og kyngervis verða flutt fimm stutt erindi auk umræðna. Málþingið er öllum opið. Fyrirlestarar og umræður fara (að mestu) fram á ensku.

Ann-Catrine Edlund & Erla Hulda Halldórsdóttir: Gendering Historical Literacy. Two
Cases of Vernacular Writing in 19th and 20th Century Sweden and Iceland.

Haraldur Bernharðsson: 19th-century language standardization: Bringing a new linguistic
standard to life with boys and girls alike

Ásta Svavarsdóttir: Language use and language attitudes in 19th century Iceland: Gendered borrowings?

Guðrún Þórhallsdóttir: Gender differences in gender use? Generics, agreement and general
thoughts on 19th-century Icelandic

Davíð Ólafsson: Double agents? Exploring gendered literacy practices through the diaries of a male scribe

Sagnfræðistofnun Háskóla Íslands / The Institute of History, University of Iceland Miðaldastofa Háskóla Íslands / The University of Iceland Centre for Medieval Studies

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2016–2017

Anita Sauckel

“A man is mortified naked”

Clothing and Fashion in Íslendingasögur

Thursday March 30, 2017, at 16.30
Oddi 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.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2016–2017

Massimiliano Bampi

Approaching generic hybridity in saga literature

The case of Víglundar saga

Thursday March 23, 2017, at 16.30
Oddi 101

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.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2016–2017

Shaun F. D. Hughes

‘The Never-Ending Story’

Saga Writing from Ari Þorgilsson to Bergsveinn Birgisson

Thursday, March 16, 2017, at 16.30
Oddi 101

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.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 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

Thursday, March 9, 2017, at 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.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.