Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2016–2017

Jan Alexander van Nahl

“I never use minted coins”

Andreas Heusler in 21st-century medieval studies

Thursday February 9, 2017, at 16.30
Oddi 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.

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