Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2021–2022

Program in reverse order:

Zrinka Stahuljak

Medieval Fixers: History, Politics, Literature

Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Zrinka Stahuljak

Ever since the western involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria, the term “fixer” became commonplace. It designates almost exclusively men who perform a range of services for foreign journalists and armies. Acting as interpreters, local informants, guides, drivers, mediators, brokers, these men are intermediaries, enablers who posess multiple skillls and bodies of knowledge. Fixers existed already in the Middle Ages, in situations of multilingual encounter, such as crusades, pilgrimages, proselytization, trade, translation. Fixers are the invisible men and women of history, then as now. This talk aims to restore their presence in a productive conversation between the fixers of the past and of the present. To look at history, literature and politics through the lens of fixers changes our relationship to the world and how we structure it.

Zrinka Stahuljak is Director of the CMRS Center for Early Global Studies (CMRS-CEGS) and Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her most recent books are Les Fixeurs au Moyen Âge: Histoire et littérature connectées (Seuil 2021) and a forthcoming book Fixers: Agency, Translation, and Literature in the Middle Ages (UP Chicago).

This talk is also part of the The Fifth Icelandic History Congress.

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

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Dorottya Uhrin

The Spread of Saint Dorothy’s Cult in Central Europe and Scandinavia

A Comparative Analysis

Thursday, March 31, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Dorottya Uhrin

Saint Dorothy was a young virgin, who during the reign of Emperor Diocletian suffered martyrdom in Cappadocia in the late Antiquity. Her cult was highly popular in the fifteenth-century Central Europe and Scandinavia. She was, however,  almost unknown a hundred years earlier. This phenomenon is not unique and not limited only to this particular saint and territory. The fourteenth century seems to be the period when the cults and legends of virgin martyrs were rediscovered in Europe. How did their cult re-emerge in these regions? Why did a late-Antique saint become popular in the late Middle Ages? How did her cult spread from Central Europe to North an East?

In my presentation, I will concentrate on how the general changes in society contributed to the birth of a special type of saints, the holy helper, and why did their cults become popular in the above-mentioned regions. By the fourteenth century, the network of parish churches has already been developed, thus the devotees had to find other ways to express their veneration. Thus, her cult’s traces mostly appear as altar dedications, mural paintings and legends. Beside the medieval vernacular German translation of the legends, there are Hungarian and Icelandic translation of her holy life. Thus, the presentation analyzes which circumstances contributed to the proliferation of the cult of virgin martyrs, especially to Saint Dorothy’s cult with interdisciplinary method. Historical, art historical and liturgical sources will help to reconstruct the birth and the spread of the cult.

I will argue, that besides the growing importance of women, the general changes in the cult of saints facilitated the spread of the cult of virgin martyrs. The growing importance of images and sermons contributed to the spread of the old saints’ cult, whose venerations were not connected to certain locations. Moreover, their intimate relationship with the Virgin Mary made them effective intercessors which also subsidized to their popularity.

Dorottya Uhrin is an assistant lecturer at the Medieval History Department of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She graduated in history, religious history and Mongolian studies and earned a Ph.D. from the same university. Also, she has a master’s degree in medieval studies from Central European University. Her main research area is religiosity in medieval Central Europe.

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

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Ben Allport

“To Explain the Present and Promote its Values”

Evolving Strategies of Elite Legitimisation in the Variants of the Frá Fornjóti Origin Myth

Thursday, March 24, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Ben Allport

The origin myth Frá Fornjóti ok hans ættmönnum survives in two variants, Fundinn Noregr and Hversu Noregr byggðist, both of which are preserved in Flateyjarbók. Both variants describe the descent from a primordial being named Fornjótr to the siblings Nórr, Górr, and Gói and the brother’s quest to find their sister after she is abducted. Along the way, Nórr conquers the mainland of northwestern Scandinavia and creates the kingdom of Norway, which he bequeaths to his sons. Górr conquers Norway’s coastal islands, becoming a sækonungr ‘sea-king.’ Despite this shared narrative core, significant differences in detail between the two variants attest to their differing histories. Fundinn Noregr survives as the preface to Orkneyinga saga, and is thus dated to, at the latest, that saga’s second production phase in the 1220s or 30s. Hversu Noregr byggðist is attested much later, and in the form preserved in Flateyjarbók shows signs of extensive expansion in the fourteenth century.

Each stage and variant of the Frá Fornjóti myth introduces new themes and political dimensions into the tradition; Fundinn Noregr provides an origin for the jarls of Orkney, who are positioned as the descendants of Górr. The core of Hversu Noregr byggðist explores the dissemination of the regional dynasties of Norway and anticipates the kingdom’s supposed reunification by Haraldr hárfagri; the expansion phase emphasises the importance of female dynasts in connecting the primordial dynasty of Nórr to prominent Icelandic and Norwegian progenitors.

This talk outlines the history of the Frá Fornjóti tradition from the early thirteenth to late fourteenth centuries, summarising and updating previous scholarly interpretations of the tradition. It explores the tradition’s evolving themes and the various interests—Norwegian, Orcadian, and Icelandic—that they served. Medieval origin myths served as a tool by which members of different medieval elites (spiritual, intellectual, political) aimed to legitimise their present social role by marrying their ancestry (sometimes literally) into the origins of the communities they sought to rule. As the late Susan Reynold’s wrote, the primary purpose of such myths was “to explain the present and promote its values.” These words serve as a mantra for my own endeavour to understand and interpret the shifting themes and forms of the Frá Fornjóti myth.

Ben Allport is a researcher on the ELITES-project at the University of Oslo. He was among the first cohort to study the Viking and Medieval Norse MA at the University of Iceland and University of Oslo and received his Ph.D. from Cambridge in 2018. His research focuses on the creation of community in medieval narrative sources

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

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Annett Krakow

Peculiarities of the Flateyjarbók version of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta

Thursday, March 17, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Annett Krakow

Flateyjarbók (c.1387–1394/95) preserves a version of the younger redaction of the so-called longest saga of the Norwegian king Óláfr Tryggvason. Compared with the older redaction and also AM 62 fol., another manuscript of the younger redaction, the Flateyjarbók version differs with regard to two aspects: First, interpolations related to the retainers who fight with King Óláfr in the decisive sea battle at Svǫlðr. Second, the last part of the saga, which covers the subsequent period of the king’s alleged survival until his death in a monastery.

In my talk, I will in particular focus on the first aspect. Even the older sagas of Óláfr Tryggvason by Oddr Snorrason and Snorri Sturluson named the men who fought on the king’s side, especially on his ship Ormrinn langi. In these sagas and in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, comparatively few of these men are referred to in other parts of the saga. In Flateyjarbók, attempts were made to diminish this discrepancy and to portray selected retainers. The modifications comprise additional stories in which they feature (for instance in the case of Þorsteinn uxafótr) and interpolations of names in the lists of retainers. A certain Hallsteinn, for example, is in Flateyjarbók explicitly identified as the son of Hrómundr halti and one of the protagonists in the interpolated Hrómundar þáttr halta. In the þættir, one learns that Hallsteinn and (partly) Þorsteinn uxafótr are of Icelandic descent. The same also holds true for Þorsteinn skelkr, whose name was added in the enumeration of retainers, and who is a character in an interpolated þáttr. Thus, Icelanders are among those men in Óláfr’s last battle, who are granted an intensified presentation in the saga.

Concerning the second aspect, modifications in the last part of the saga, one can, for example, note that chapters on Saint Óláfr and Haraldr harðráði were omitted. Moreover, the position of chapters related to the rule of Eiríkr Hákonarson was changed: placed after Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, they create a transitional passage to Óláfs saga helga. In this transitional passage, one can find further interpolations. One of these is Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar, the eponymous hero of which participates in a ‘re-enactment’ of the fight on Ormrinn langi.

Annett Krakow works at the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland). She holds an MA in English and Scandinavian Studies (2004) and a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies (2009) from Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany). Currently, her research focuses on Yngvars saga víðfǫrla and its reception in studies on Yngvarr’s expedition.

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

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Jan Alexander van Nahl

The Domestication of Uncertainty

A New Reading of the Old Norse Kings’ Sagas

Thursday, March 10, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Jan Alexander van Nahl

The Sturlungaöld is construed by scholars as a time of sociopolitical crisis, an assumption essentially built on the interpretation of saga literature. This crisis thus appears as something imaginary, fed by desires and fears — the experience of a break in continuity, stimulating the narrative construction of meaning, which reacted upon society. From this point of view, contradictions and ambiguities in the Old Norse sagas can be understood as tokens of time-conditioned instability.

It is against this assumption that my book “Kontingenz und Zufall in den altisländischen Königssagas” (https://www.degruyter.com/document/isbn/9783110759280/html) focuses on the three grand compilations of Old Norse kings’ sagas: Fagrskinna, Heimskringla, and Morkinskinna. The most important novelty of this study is the radical shift of the theoretical foundation: whereas earlier interpretations of the kings’ sagas have argued against the premise of an outstanding competence of the saga characters (even linked to a vague concept of luck), my interest lies in the framework conditions and thus the bounds of human action. Focusing on relevant histories of mentality, both scholarly and everyday attitudes of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries are taken into account: sweeping events and developments such as the crusades, the rediscovery of Aristotelian writings, the division of philosophy and theology, as well as the establishment of a new type of fictional literature.

The close reading of the kings’ sagas demonstrates a narrative potential which seems to strive for making sense of the often improbable course of Nordic history. This meaningful construct, however, is embraced by the obvious insight into the limitations of human interpretation. Still, these sagas are hard to dismiss as nothing but a farewell to the past, present and future. After all, uncertainty raises hope regarding the realization of human dreams. Thus, in the face of the narrative de-construction of history, the recipient is urged to find new coordinates in a world of ‘as if’, coordinates that contribute constructively to the relief from the burden of uncertainty.

The (political) message of the kings’ sagas could then be: whoever was competent to be a narrator was particularly qualified to establish order even in real life. However, another message would be: this domestication of uncertainty cannot be brought to a conclusion, the path is not finally determined. This ambivalence of power and powerlessness that defines human life until death is argued to be the significant core of the kings’ sagas.

Jan Alexander van Nahl holds an MA from the University of Bonn, and a Dr. phil. in Scandinavian Studies and Medieval Archaeology from the University of München (2012), where he also finished his Dr. habil. in Old Norse Studies in 2020. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Iceland from 2014 to 2017, assistant professor from 2019 to 2021, and is currently associate professor in medieval Icelandic literature. He has published on Old Norse literature, digital humanities, Icelandic culture, and the societal task of academia. He is a member of the Academy of Sciences and Letters in Agder, Norway.

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

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Declan Taggart

No such thing as sin?

Morality and its links with Old Norse religion

Thursday, March 3, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Declan Taggart

For all that researchers over the last sixty years have carefully highlighted the industry, intellect and artistry of early Scandinavians and Icelanders, the word viking remains associated with activities like violence, theft and murder. To some onlookers, it has appeared impossible that the situation could be otherwise, given the dominance of paganism in contemporary society, while the majority of handbooks on Old Norse religion and culture do not consider a relationship between morality and religion at all.

In this talk, I will question that rough consensus and emphasize links between Old Norse religion, morality and social structure. My discussion will be split into two sections. The first will consider several episodes from mythological and legendary poetry, in particular from Skírnismál, which appear to reflect and build on contemporary moral norms. Here, I am chiefly interested in how far the gods are implicated in monitoring, rewarding and punishing human activity and the types of conduct with which the gods are believed to concern themselves.

In the second half of the seminar, I will examine how religious actions and images generate prosocial behaviours (i.e. conduct that benefits others, such as sharing, donating and co-operating). Key is a theory called costly signalling, which posits that (often personally expensive) religious acts demonstrate sincere commitment to a group and thereby trustworthiness. This theory will be applied to Old Norse funeral customs and afterlife beliefs to contemplate the impact of religious rituals and imagery on behaviour and, thereby, on solidarity within communities and dominant social hierarchies.

Declan Taggart is a postdoctoral researcher at Háskóli Íslands working on moral norms, religion and social structure in pre-Christian Iceland and Scandinavia. He has published a book on change in representations of the god Þórr called How Thor Lost His Thunder, and, for his last postdoctoral project, produced a short choose-your-own-adventure game based on the mythological poem Vǫluspá called Choose your own end to the viking world. It can be played for free here: https://dtaggart919.itch.io/choose-your-own-end-to-the-viking-world.

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

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Úlfar Bragason

Sturla Þórðarson — minni og frásögn

Thursday, January 13, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Úlfar Bragason

Margt hefur verið rætt og ritað um uppruna Íslendinga sagna síðustu hundrað árin eða svo og sýnst sitt hverjum. Færra hefur verið skrifað um hvernig samtíðarsögur urðu til. Samt ætti að vera auðveldara að átta sig á því þar sem þær voru líklega flestar ritaðar á innan við hundrað árum frá því atburðir þeirra áttu eða eiga að hafa átt sér stað.

Íslendinga saga er hryggjarstykkið í Sturlungusamsteypunni þótt fræðimenn hafi greint á um hversu langt sagan nær og hvaða hluta samsteypunnar megi telja til hennar. Í greinargerð samsteypuritstjórans með verki sínu segir að Sturla skáld Þórðarson hafi sagt fyrir Íslendinga sögur (flt). Um heimildir Sturlu að frásögn sinni segir ritstjórinn: „hafði hann þar til vísindi af fróðum mönnum, þeim er voru á öndverðum dögum hans, en sumt eptir bréfum þeim er þeir rituðu er þeim voru samtíða er sögurnar eru frá. Marga hluti mátti hann sjálfr sjá, þá er á hans dögum gerðust til stórtíðinda.“ Nú vitum við ekki hvers vegna ritstjórinn talar um Íslendinga sögur í fleirtölu þótt ef til vill megi fara nærri um það. Við vitum heldur ekki hvað fólst í notkun hans á orðinu „bréf“ í sambandi við heimildir Sturlu. Þar fyrir utan getum við aðeins nálgast minningar Sturlu og heimildarmanna hans í frásögninni sjálfri.

Í fyrirlestrinum verður fjallað um heimildir Íslendinga sögu og hvað megi marka af greinargerð samsteypuritstjórans hvernig samtíðarsögur urðu til. Hverjir gætu hafa verið heimildarmenn Sturlu? Hverju mundu þeir eftir eða hvers konar frásagnir hefur sagan eftir þeim? Hverju er sleppt eða gleymt? Hvernig voru þessar frásagnir varðveittar og hversu traustar eru þær?

Úlfar Bragason er rannsóknarprófessor emeritus við Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum. Rannsóknir Úlfars hafa beinst að íslenskum miðaldabókmenntum, einkum samtíðarsögum, og flutningum Íslendinga til Vesturheims á 19. öld. Hann er höfundur bókarinnar Reykjaholt Revisited: Representing Snorri in Sturla Þórðarson’s Íslendinga saga sem kemur út um þessar mundir hjá Árnastofnun.

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic. All are welcome to attend. Maximum seating capacity 23; 1 meter social distancing; masks mandatory.

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Ásgeir Jónsson

Efnahagsmál á landnámsöld

Fimmtudaginn 9. desember 2021 kl. 16.30 — FRESTAÐ
Lögbergi 101

Ásgeir Jónsson

Landnámabók geymir fjölskyldusögur 430 landnámsmanna, bæði karla og kvenna. Sumar eru sorglegar, aðrar ævintýralegar en allar fullar af von um nýtt líf. Hér er gerð tilraun til að fella þessar mörgu litlu sögur saman í eina stóra sögu í samhengi við aðrar heimildir, líkt og írska, skoska og enska annála. Og erlendar sagnfræðirannsóknir. Þrátt fyrir ýkjur og missagnir mynda landnámssögurnar einn frásagnarkjarna sem er í góðu samhengi við hagsögu evrópskra miðalda.

Nýútkomin bók Ásgeirs Eyjan hans Ingólfs er skrifuð sem fjölskyldusaga Ingólfs landnámsmanns í Reykjavík sem er með öðrum þræði saga Íslands. Ingólfur átti stóra fjölskyldu sem bjó bæði í Noregi og á Suðureyjum. Flest ættmenni hans á Írlandshafi höfðu tekið kristni og samlagast keltnesku samfélagi. En ófriður kippti undan þeim fótunum. Þau héldu til Íslands og námu um þriðjung ræktanlegs lands. Þessi frændgarður lagði síðan grunn að þinghaldi, stofnun Alþings, skipulagi goðorða og svo biskupsstól í Skálholti. Efnahagsáhersla bókarinnar er tvíþætt:

Í fyrsta lagi er fjallað um efnahagslegan drifkraft landnámsins í tengslum við breytingar í alþjóðaverslun á tímum víkingaferðanna. Flestir landnámsmenn voru upprunnir af Norðurveginum – hinni 1000 km strandlengju norðvestur Noregs sem um aldir var hlið meginlands Evrópu til heimskautasvæðanna. Úthafssiglingar Norðmanna til Bretlandseyja komu utanríkisverslun Norðurlanda í uppnám og komu af stað verslunarstríði sem hefur verið kennd við Harald hárfagra. Þá er hugað að tengslum Íslands við stærsta þrælamarkað í Evrópu í Dyflinni.

Í öðru lagi fjallað um hagræna þróun og stofnanauppbyggingu í nýju landi. Ljóst er að upphafleg lýsing eignarréttar á landi, hafði gríðarleg áhrif á dreifingu eigna og síðar skulda í hinu nýja ríki. Landnámssættirnar virðast þó hafa kosið fremur að selja land en leigja það áfram og þá frekar lána fyrir kaupunum. Kannski stafaði það af því hve peningalán báru háa vexti, veðtaka var auðveld samkvæmt lögum og framfylgd eignarréttar var skýr. Þannig skilaði landnámsöldin héruðum er voru skipuð sjálfseignarbændum en ekki leiguliðum. Þessi fjölmenna stétt sjálfseignarbænda varð síðan grundvöllur að goðorðum þar sem þingmönnum var raunverulega frjálst að velja sér goða til að fylgja án þess að vera háðir neinum leigudrottni.

Ásgeir Jónsson lauk BS- próf í hagfræði frá Háskóla Íslands 1990 þar sem BS-ritgerð hans fjallaði um hagkerfi Íslands á tímum frjálsrar alþjóðaverslunar árunum 1400-1600. Hann lauk síðan doktorsprófi í peningahagfræði og hagsögu frá Indiana University árið 2001 þar sem yfirskrift doktorsritgerðar hans var Short-term Stabilization in Small Open Economies. Ásgeir hóf störf á Hagfræðistofnun árið 2001, varð lektor við Hagfræðideild Háskóla Íslands árið 2004 og síðar dósent. Hann var deildarforseti Hagfræðideildar Háskóla Íslands 2015-2019, umsjónarmaður námslínu í meistaranámi í fjármálahagfræði og fjármálafræði frá 2006. Ásgeir hefur á ferli sínum ritað fjölda fræðilegra greina og bóka um peningamál, hagsögu og efnahagsmál. Hann er nú í leyfi frá Háskóla Íslands og sinnir starfi seðlabankastjóra.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opin á meðan húsrúm leyfir; hámark 50 manns; grímuskylda.

Streymi: https://eu01web.zoom.us/j/61326078486

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Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson og Sverrir Jakobsson

Snorri Sturluson: Frumkvöðull frjálslyndrar íhaldsstefnu?

Samræða um túlkun

Fimmtudaginn 2. desember 2021 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Sverrir Jakobsson
Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson

Hvers vegna skipaði Hannes Snorra Sturlusyni fremst í tveggja binda rit sitt, Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers? Hvers vegna á Snorri heima með heilögum Tómasi af Akvínas og John Locke?Vegna þess að í Heimskringlu setti Snorri skýrt fram tvær hugmyndir, sem áttu eftir að gegna mikilvægu hlutverki í frjálslyndri íhaldsstefnu Lockes og eftirmanna hans. Hin fyrri er, að vald konunga sé sótt til þjóðarinnar. Þeir ríki við samþykki þegnanna, ekki af náð Guðs. Seinni hugmyndin er, að konungar séu bundnir af óskráðu samkomulagi, hinum góðu, gömlu lögum, og ef þeir brjóta það, til dæmis með þungum sköttum og óþörfum hernaði, þá mega þegnarnir steypa þeim af stóli. Þetta sést best af ræðu Þórgnýs lögmanns. Við þetta bætist þriðja hugmyndin úr ræðu Einars Þveræings: Úr því að konungar eru misjafnir, er best að hafa engan. Svipaðra hugmynda um sérstöðu Íslendinga gætir í ræðu Þorgeirs Ljósvetningagoða, sem Ari fróði samdi. Þótt sagan um landvættirnar sé ættuð úr biblíunni, notar Snorri hana óbeint til að vara Noregskonung við að ráðast á Ísland. Jafnframt er Egils saga um einstaklinginn, skáldið og hetjuna, sem stígur út úr hefðbundinni umgjörð tilveru sinnar. Einstaklingshyggja fæddist því ekki á endurreisnartímanum á Ítalíu, eins og Jacob Burkhardt hélt fram, heldur miklu fyrr. Túlkun Hannesar á Snorra er í beinu framhaldi af því, sem Sigurður Nordal, Sigurður Líndal, Birgit Sawyer og Magnús Fjalldal hafa skrifað um hinn íslenska sagnameistara.

Hannes reifar í fyrirlestrinum túlkun sína á Snorra Sturlusyni og Sverrir bregst við.

Hannes H. Gissurarson er prófessor í stjórnmálafræði við Háskóla Íslands. Hann lauk B.A. prófi í heimspeki og sagnfræði og cand. mag. prófi í sagnfræði frá Háskóla Íslands og D.Phil. prófi í stjórnmálafræði frá Oxford-háskóla. Hann hefur verið lektor, dósent og prófessor í stjórnmálafræði í Háskóla Íslands frá 1988, setið í bankaráði Seðlabankans og stjórn Mont Pelerin samtakanna og verið gistiprófessor við marga erlenda háskóla. Hann hefur gefið út fjölda bók, en hin nýjasta er Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers í tveimur bindum, sem kom út í Brüssel í árslok 2020.

Sverrir Jakobsson er prófessor í sagnfræði við Háskóla Íslands. Hann er sérfræðingur í miðaldasögu og hefur sinnt margvíslegum rannsóknarsviðum, svo sem stjórnmálasögu Íslands, sögu kristni og kirkju, hugmynda- og hugarfarssögu miðalda, sjálfsmyndum Íslendinga á miðöldum, sögu Breiðfirðinga, sagnaritun um Noregskonunga og hugmyndum um væringja og Austurvegsþjóðir.

Samræðan fer fram á íslensku og er öllum opin á meðan húsrúm leyfir; hámark 50 manns; grímuskylda.

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Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir

Arfur aldanna: Sagan af Guðrúnu Gjúkadóttur

Thursday, November 25, 2021, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir

Í fyrirlestrinum mun Aðalheiður kynna efni bóka sinna Handan Hindarfjalls og Norðvegur sem Háskólaútgáfan gefur út. Um er að ræða fyrstu tvö bindin af fjórum í ritröðinni Arfur aldanna sem fjallar um fornaldarsögur, uppruna þeirra, útbreiðslu og einkenni. Í bókunum tveimur er dregin upp heildarmynd af efnivið fornaldarsagna í evrópsku samhengi fram að ritunartíma þeirra á Íslandi á 13. og 14. öld.

Efnisþræðir bókanna eru allmargir og fléttast með ýmsum hætti. Í sameiningu mynda þeir það net sem segja má að sé efniviður sagna fremur en tilteknar sögur, enda má segja að fólk hafi – í aldanna rás – skapað hin mismunandi tilbrigði nú varðveittra sagna úr þeim efnivið sem hér er kynntur til sögunnar.

Í fyrirlestrinum verður leitast við að varpa nýju ljósi á einungis lítið brot af þeim arfi sem aldirnar geyma, söguna af Guðrúnu Gjúkadóttur, eina af megin söguhetjum Völsunga sögu. Áhersla verður lögð á rætur Guðrúnar í evrópskri sagnahefð og sambandi hennar við þær sögulegu hetjur sem tengjast sagnaefninu. Einkum og sér í lagi verður litið á eiginmenn Guðrúnar, og hvernig hin ólíku hjónabönd hennar leiða saman helstu stórhöfðingja þess umrótatíma sem kenndur er við þjóðflutningana miklu. Hlutverk hennar er því afar mikilvægt, að öðrum ólöstuðum, og hlýtur að mega teljast hið miðlæga bindiefni þeirra sagna sem hverfast um efnivið Völsunga sögu. Sú saga sem hér er sögð er í raun gömul saga í nýju ljósi, eða jafnvel tilbrigði við þá sögu Guðrúnar sem við þekkjum úr varðveittum bókmenntum.

Í stærra samhengi varðar efniviðurinn sögur um konunga og aðra höfðingja frá Frankaríki, núverandi Þýskalandi og jafnvel öðrum Evrópulöndum. Allt eru þetta höfðingjar sem tengjast ekki einungis söguhetjum Völsunga sögu heldur einnig eldri hetjukvæða á borð við Atlakviðu, Guðrúnarkviðurnar þrjár og Guðrúnarhvöt, eða jafnvel hinum svonefnda germanska hetjukvæðaarfi; nánar tiltekið Sigurði Fáfnisbana, Atla Húnakonungi, Þjóðreki þeim sem frá segir í Guðrúnarkviðu III, Jörmunreki konungi Austgota og Jónakri.

Að fyrirlestri loknum verður hægt verður að kaupa bækurnar á sérstöku tilboðsverði.

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir er prófessor í íslenskum bókmenntum fyrri alda við Háskóla Íslands og stjórnarformaður Miðaldastofu. Hún lauk doktorsprófi við Háskóla Íslands árið 2002. Rannsóknir hennar snúast einkum um fornaldarsögur, frásagnarfræði og sagnamenningu fyrri alda.

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic. All are welcome to attend (maximum seating capacity 50; masks mandatory).

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Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir

Emotion words in Njáls saga and Egils saga

Construction of an Emotional Lexis

Thursday, November 18, 2021, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir

The Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders) are notorious for the apparent emotional reticence of their narrative style. As a rule, the narrative voice is externally focalised and emotional expression in the prose is mainly implicit; feelings are communicated through behaviour, physical reactions, and indirect allusions, and most often need to be inferred.

Even though scholars have often maintained that the Íslendingasögur are poor in emotional vocabulary, the emotion words in them have not been comprehensively explored. In this talk, I explain my construction of database of the words used to express feelings in two of the longest sagas, Njáls saga and Egils saga. The method used enabled the plotting of various variables, such as character, gender, social status, and speaker, against one another. This uncovered narrative patterns and formulas for action, as well as allowing the identification of anomalies. This further resulted in the production of the first lexicons of the two sagas’ emotional vocabulary.

The analysis of the emotional lexis demonstrates that, contrary to what has often been assumed, the sagas contain a wide variety of emotion words that are applied systematically, precisely, and purposefully to achieve specific narrative aims.

Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir received her doctorate in Old Norse Literature from the University of Cambridge in 2020, where she studied the emotional depiction in the Íslendingasögur. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, working on the collaborative project ‘The Íslendingasögur as Prosimetrum.’

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic and supported by visual material in English. All are welcome to attend (maximum seating capacity 50; masks mandatory).

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Árni Daníel Júlíusson

Hvalrekar og hvalnýting á 13.–15. öld

Um vitnisburð skjalaheimilda og annarra heimilda um þátt hvalaafurða í afkomu Íslendinga á þessum tíma

Thursday, November 4, 2021, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Árni Daníel Júlíusson

Í þessum fyrirlestri verður fjallað um heimildir um hvalreka og rekafjörur frá 13. til 15. aldar í tengslum við rannsóknarverkefni um hvalveiðar á Íslandi sem Vicki Szabo, umhverfissagnfræðingur við Western Carolina-háskóla, stýrir og ýmsir fræðimenn úr mörgum fræðigreinum vinna að. Hvalbein frá miðöldum á Íslandi hafa verið greind í þessu rannsóknarverkefni, sem fyrirlesari tekur þátt í, og virðist sú rannsókn sýna að mikilvægasti hvalurinn á miðöldum hafi verið steypireyður. Bein af steypireyði finnast í mörgum fornum öskuhaugum, til dæmis á Siglunesi og í Þistilfirði. Lúðvík Kristjánsson lagði fram þá hugmynd um 1980 að hvalaafurðir hafi verið mikilvægari á fyrstu öldum Íslands byggðar en áður hefur almennt verið á vitorði manna. Sú hafi jafnvel verið raunin lengi fram eftir öldum.

Margvíslegt efni um hvalreka og hvalanytjar er til að mynda að finna í lagatextum, bæði Grágás og Jónsbók. Í Grágás er sérstakur þáttur um reka, Rekaþáttur. Þar er bæði fjallað um viðarreka og hvalreka, og eru þar ítarlegar reglur á þessu sviði. Þar kemur meðal annars vel fram hversu hvalaafurðir voru mikil búbót, bæði hvað varðar fitu og kjöt af hvölunum, vegna þess hversu skepnurnar voru stórar.

Þá verður gerð nokkur grein fyrir rannsóknum á fornleifum. Miklar heimildir um hvalreka er að finna í Íslensku fornbréfasafni. Þessar heimildir eru bæði frá bændum, til dæmis í Hornafirði og á Rosmhvalanesi, og einnig frá kaþólsku kirkjunni. Mjög umfangsmiklar heimildir eru til frá því um 1270 og fram um 1400 um réttindi og eignir kaþólsku kirkjunnar hvað þetta varðar, mjög víða um land. Eftir 1400 sneyðist mjög um heimildir á þessu sviði, en þó er eitthvað til. Heimildirnar frá Rosmhvalanesi og úr Hornafirði eru afar merkar og veita sjaldgæfa innsýn í samfélagsskipan fyrir tíma stórra jarðeigenda. Heimildirnar frá kaþólsku kirkjunni eru ekki síður merkar því að þær eru fyrstu stóru og umfangsmiklu heimildir um rekstur og eignir kirkjunnar eftir að hún náði verulegri fótfestu í samfélaginu sem sjálfstæð stofnun. Í þessum kirkjulegu heimildum er meðal annars að finna heimildir um nýtingu rekafjöru á Melrakkasléttu, Tröllaskaga, Skaga og á Ströndum. Í báðum þessum heimildaflokkum, hvalreka bænda og hvalreka kirkju, er að finna bæjarnafnaskrár sem oft eru fyrstu ritheimildir um viðkomandi jarðir. Rannsóknir á þessum heimildum eru skammt á veg komnar og verður gerð grein fyrir ýmsum vandamálum sem tengjast slíkum rannsóknum.

Árni Daníel Júlíusson er sagnfræðingur við Háskóla Íslands. Hann lauk doktorsprófi frá Kaupmannahafnarháskóla árið 1997 og hefur sinnt margvíslegum rannsóknum, kennslu og ritstörfum, aðallega á Íslandssögu tímabilsins 1300 til 1800.

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

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Natalie Van Deusen

“Alheil(l)”

On Miracle Narratives as Sources for the Construction of Disability in Medieval Iceland

Thursday, October 21, 2021, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Natalie Van Deusen
Natalie Van Deusen

This paper discusses the importance of Old Norse-Icelandic miracle narratives, which contain a plethora of examples of impairment of varying degrees of visibility and severity, as sources for understanding of how impairment and disability were constructed in medieval Iceland. Echoing the fundamental biblical miracles performed by Jesus, saints channeled the power of God to cure the blind, deaf, leprous, physically impaired, and mentally troubled. Such examples, whose primary purpose was to demonstrate the sanctity of certain individuals, lend important incidental insight into the lives and experiences of individuals with visible and invisible impairments. Equally illuminating in terms of constructing disability is viewing the material from the perspective of why people call upon the aid of saints. While presented as maladies to be cured, and in this way presenting these individuals as impaired and/or disabled, these miracles sometimes show the great love and care given to disabled individuals–especially children. In either presentation, such examples provide a window into how visible and invisible impairments were experienced, understood, and treated in medieval Iceland.

This discussion builds upon the important research and conclusions from the Disability Before Disability research project at the University of Iceland, which ran from 2017-2020, and argues for the importance of hagiographic literature and miracle narratives in particular as important sources for our understanding of how disability and impairment were constructed in medieval Iceland.

Natalie Van Deusen (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012) is Henry Cabot and Linnea Lodge Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Alberta. Her research interests include Old Norse and Early Modern Icelandic paleography and philology, manuscript culture, hagiography, disability studies, and gender studies.

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

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Lars Lönnroth

The border of reality

The Gautelfur area as “liminal space” in the sagas

Wednesday, September 22, 2021, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Lars Lönnroth

The expression “liminal space” refers not only to the fact that the Gautelfur area in the Middle Ages constituted the border (landamæri] between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but also to the fact that this border area was often thought of in the sagas as a mysterious space where unusual things could happen (the meeting of kings, Viking attacks, amorous meetings with royal women, et cetera). I will also report on the latest archeological findings at the old border town of Konungahella, suggesting that this place is much older than historians have believed. The stories told in Iceland about Konungahella and the landamæri may also be older than scholars have thought until now.

Lars Lönnroth started his career in Uppsala, Sweden. HIs doctoral dissertation, European Sources of Icelandic Saga-Writing, was published in 1965. He was a teacher of Scandinavian literature at the University of California, Berkeley, between 1965 and 1974, when he became a professor at the University of Aalborg in Denmark. In 1982, he returned to Sweden and served as professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Gothenburg until 2000. His best-known books about Icelandic literature are Njáls Saga: A Critical Introduction (1976), Skaldemjödet I berget: Essayer om fornisländsk ordkonst och dess återanvändning i nutiden (1996), and The Academy of Odin: Selected Papers on Old Norse Literature (2011). He has also published his autobiography, Dörrar till främmande rum: Minnesfragment (2009). — On Thursday, September 23, at 15.00, Professor Lars Lönnroth will be awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies of the University of Iceland in recognition of his important work on medieval Icelandic literature.

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

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