Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2016–2017

Susanne M. Arthur

Relationship status: “It’s complicated”

The struggles of revising Njáls saga’s stemma

Thursday November 10, 2016, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Susanne M. Arthur

In 1883, Lehmann and Schnorr von Carolsfeld published a stemma codicum for Njáls saga in Die Njálssage insbesondere in ihren juristischen Bestandtheilen. Jón Þorkelsson used this stemma as the basis for the one he published in the second volume of Konráð Gíslason’s and Eiríkur Jónsson’s 1875-1889 edition of the saga. His stemma was supported later by Einar Ól. Sveinsson (1954), the editor of the Íslenzk fornrit edition. As was common at the time, these scholars based their stemma primarily or exclusively on medieval parchment codices, establishing three major branches, related to the medieval manuscripts Reykjabók and Kálfalækjarbók (X-branch), Möðruvallabók (Y-branch), as well as Gráskinna and Skafinskinna (Z-branch).
Post-medieval manuscripts were considered of little value for stemmatological research, and so the task of studying the post-medieval manuscript transmission of Njáls saga and of revisiting and revising the saga’s stemma lay dormant for about 60 years. For the past few years, however, various researchers—including Ludger Zeevaert, Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, Margrét Eggertsdóttir, and Alaric Timothy Hall—and participants of the International Arnamagnæan Summer Schools in Manuscript Studies have taken very important steps towards establishing a new comprehensive stemma for Njáls saga, which includes the neglected post-medieval manuscript transmission.
This presentation explores a small number of variants among the Njáls saga manuscripts, which aid in solidifying some and revising other parts of the stemma established by Zeevaert et al. Some of the chosen variants exemplify aspects of manuscript transmission, such as censorship, scribal errors, and restructuring of the text. Susanne’s focus lies on the seventeenth-century manuscripts NKS 1220 fol. (Vigursbók). Vigursbók is suggested to be related to both the so-called Oddabók-branch (named after a fifteenth-century Njáls saga manuscript) as well as the *Gullskinna-branch. *Gullskinna refers to a lost medieval codex, whose text survives in a large number of post-medieval manuscripts. However, due to the aforementioned lack of interest in post-medieval manuscript transmission by earlier scholars, the *Gullskinna-branch has barely been researched; this is a gap that recent Njáls saga research is trying to fill.

Susanne Arthur was awarded a three-year postdoc grant (2016–2019) from the Recruitment Fund of the University of Iceland after having received her Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She focuses on material aspects as well as textual variance of Icelandic medieval and post-medieval manuscripts.

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