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.