Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2021–2022

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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