Strengleikar 2014-2015

Dagskrá í öfugri tímaröð:

Beeke Stegmann

A collector at work

Árni Magnússon’s rearrangement of paper manuscripts

Þriðjudaginn 19. maí 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Beeke Stegmann
Beeke Stegmann

Árni Magnússon (1663-1730) famously collected Icelandic manuscripts and put the bits and pieces of dismembered medieval parchment manuscripts back together. Many of his younger manuscripts, however, were subject to the opposite fate: he frequently took them apart and rearranged them with parts of other manuscripts. This fact is obscured by the work of later librarians and conservators, who counteracted Árni’s efforts by rebinding and cataloguing his compilations based on the origins of their multiple parts.

My talk focuses on Árni Magnússon’s habits and working processes with respect to the younger manuscripts in his collection. Using the manuscripts AM 615 a-o 4to as examples, I trace when they came into Árni’s possession, which physical form they had then, and how Árni rearranged the parts.

Today, AM 615 a-o 4to form fourteen separate paper manuscripts containing rímur and related material. In 1730, however, right after Árni’s death, all the texts were kept together in one bundle. Keeping them in a bundle and adding newly incoming material over many years, Árni created an ‘open’ compilation, which could be augmented with the latest acquired material. Having many such bundles and folders with multiple works inside them, his collection was easily changed and improved. Not only could the separate manuscripts and compilations be moved around, but the texts inside them could be relocated as well as complimented by new material. Thus, Árni Magnússon’s library should be understood as a work-in-progress, a collection designed to constantly increase and improve.

Beeke Stegmann studied at the University of Bonn (Germany) and the University of Iceland. Currently she is a PhD fellow at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), where she investigates paper codices that were rearranged by Árni Magnússon. In her research, she combines approaches of Material Philology with Digital Humanities.

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Rita Copeland

Why is emotion the property of style?

An etiology

Þriðjudaginn 12. maí 2015 kl. 16.30
Oddi 101

copeland
Rita Copeland

How did style—figures of thought, rhythm, tropes, and other devices—become self-evidently the resource for shaping emotional response? In medieval poetics and rhetoric, emotion was seen as the property of style, an axiomatic truth that persists to the present day. I will trace the history of this apparent axiom and explore how generating emotion came to be treated in the Middle Ages and beyond as the domain of style or elocutio. Such an idea is not supported in the major rhetorical theory of classical antiquity (Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian). Rather, it originated with the imperial rhetorics of the fourth and fifth centuries. But it was in patristic thought, especially in St. Augustine and in Cassiodorus, that this principle gained new authority for Christian rhetoric. The influential rhetorical thought of Augustine and Cassidorus perpetuated the notion that emotion is aroused through style. In medieval and even renaissance rhetorics, this notion became a fixture, a habit of practice that was naturalized into teaching and poetics.

Rita Copeland is Rosenberg Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Classics, English, and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her fields include the history of rhetoric, literary theory, and medieval learning. Her new project is on rhetoric and the emotions in the Middle Ages.

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Haukur Þorgeirsson

„En er haustaði …“

Stílfræðileg líkindi Egils sögu og Heimskringlu

Fimmtudaginn 9. apríl 2015 kl. 16.30
Oddi 101

Haukur Þorgeirsson
Haukur Þorgeirsson

Fræðimaðurinn Peter Hallberg gerði ítarlegan stílfræðilegan samanburð á fjölmörgum forníslenskum bókmenntaverkum. Ein niðurstaða hans var að mjög náin líkindi væru með Heimskringlu og Egils sögu og taldi hann allar líkur til að sami höfundur hafi samið bæði verkin.

Margir hafa tekið undir niðurstöður Hallbergs en gagnrýnisraddir hafa einnig komið fram, ekki síst síðustu ár. Jonna Louis-Jensen hefur fært rök gegn kenningum Hallbergs um Snorra Sturluson og rökstyður hún meðal annars að Heimskringla sé ekki öll verk eins höfundar. Sigurjón Páll Ísaksson hefur einnig tekið höfundarverk Snorra til endurskoðunar. Hann túlkar samband Heimskringlu við Ólafs sögu hina sérstöku á annan hátt en viðteknast hefur verið. Einnig hefur Sigurjón gert því skóna að Snorri eigi hlut í fleiri konungasögum. Þriðji fræðimaðurinn sem sett hefur fram róttækar hugmyndir um samband konungasagnanna er Alan J. Berger. Hann hefur rökstutt að Heimskringla sé stytt útgáfa af texta líkum þeim sem varðveittur er í handritunum Huldu og Hrokkinskinnu.

Í erindinu bregst Haukur við þessum nýju hugmyndum og metur röksemdirnar. Hann kynnir einnig eigin rannsóknir á stílfræðilegum einkennum textanna sem um ræðir. Tölvutæknin auðveldar mjög samanburð af því tagi sem Hallberg fékkst við en þær niðurstöður sem þannig fást verða aldrei traustari en hin textafræðilega undirstaða. Jafnframt er því nauðsynlegt að athuga gaumgæfilega handritageymd þeirra texta sem skoðaðir eru.

Haukur Þorgeirsson lauk doktorsprófi í íslenskri málfræði 2013 og gegnir nú starfi rannsóknarlektors við handritasvið Stofnunar Árna Magnússonar. Hann fæst við rannsóknir á málfræði, bragfræði, stílfræði og textafræði.

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Rebecca Merkelbach

Monstrous Families, Familiar Monsters

On the Use of Stories about Outlaw Heroes in the Íslendingasögur

Fimmtudaginn 26. mars 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Rebecca Merkelbach
Rebecca Merkelbach

The three main Íslendingasögur about outlaw heroes have long fascinated scholars and readers alike, and the question why medieval Icelanders told tales in which social outsiders play the part of the hero has been the concern of scholarship for a number of years. At the heart of that scholarship has been a preoccupation with the characters and their families, for these families play a prominent role in the texts: Gísli is outlawed for killing one brother-in-law to avenge another; Hörðr does not trust any of his male relatives, and this eventually leads to his downfall; and Grettir’s difficult relationship with his father seems to lead to his reckless and arrogant behaviour later in life. But why are these stories about outlaw heroes so focussed on the relationships between the individual and his kin group?

In this paper, I intend to address this question by looking at the outlaw as a monster. The monster, as a creature that points towards or even embodies meaning beyond itself, lends itself well to such an investigation into social and cultural concerns whose reflection we might see in the literary products of said culture. So far, outlaws have not been included into the corpus of Íslendingasögur monsters, and therefore, the aim of this paper is ultimately twofold: firstly, to establish the outlaw as monstrous based on a revised view of the concept of monstrosity, and secondly, to address the connection with and significance of family trouble in the sagas of Icelandic outlaw heroes.

Rebecca Merkelbach has studied in Tübingen, Dublin and Reykjavík and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge. Her research focusses on the representation and use of human marginal and monstrous figures in the Íslendingasögur.

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Philip Lavender

Playing With the Truth

Contests of Wits, Word Games and the Historicity of the Fornaldarsögur

Þriðjudaginn 24. mars 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Philip Lavender
Philip Lavender

The fornaldarsögur have traditionally been associated with viking-style heroics but they also contain a fair amount of verbal wit and wisdom. The riddles in Hervara saga and Ragnar loðbrók’s apparently paradoxical requirements for his first meeting with Áslaug/Kráka are just two examples. Taking my thesis on Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra as a starting point, I look at the concept of truth developed through such verbal contests and riddles which are found within the genre, and an attempt is made to show their relevance for the ongoing debates concerning historicity and fictionality. It has been argued that our modern concepts of factual modes of writing as opposed to imaginative ones cannot be applied to Old Norse-Icelandic literature. While this is certainly true, narratorial apologiae show that scribes/authors were aware of competing claims as to how narrative material related to people’s lived experiences in both the present and the past. In brainteasers and puzzles we witness another way in which writers have developed and revealed a playfully complex conception of veracity as well as the way in which words can represent or distort reality. I will argue that these elements have encouraged readers old and new to reject any monolithic interpretation of the distant past and push audiences towards a ludic and intellectually engaged interaction with legendary saga literature.

Philip Lavender has recently successfully defended his doctoral thesis at the University of Copenhagen. Prior to that he studied English Literature and Medieval Studies at Oxford University. He is currently a research assistant at the Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen. His research focusses on fornaldarsögur, rímur, saga reception and Scandinavian intellectual history.

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Anita Sauckel

“Þar skal ek samtengja með Nóreg ok Ísland”

Hreiðarr heimski — a Figure of the Third?

Þriðjudaginn 17. febrúar 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Anita Sauckel copy
Anita Sauckel

Within the fields of cultural and literary theory, the so-called “Figure of the Third” has grown to a substantial point of interest in the last ten years. Acting as an agent of mediation and transgression — both being part of and standing outside society at the same time — third figures subvert common dualistic theories of order. Thus, what makes this figure particularly interesting is its essential role in the process of negotiating the role of each individual within the society.

Composed during Sturlungaǫld, a time of crisis, the Icelandic family sagas depict an era when the Icelandic Free State still was intact. However, a considerable number of saga protagonists display a striking non-conformity within the society. These protagonists, in their capacity as third figures, even pose a threat to the balance of the Icelandic Free State. Furthermore, in the shorter þættir protagonists even appear as troublemakers at the Norwegian court. One of them is Hreiðarr heimski, the protagonist of Hreiðars þáttr heimska. How are these figures to be interpreted?

In order to answer this question, the paper will try to examine in which way current cultural theories like “The Figure of the Third” are able to provide new insights into medieval Icelandic literature.

Anita Sauckel is a faculty member in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Greifswald (Germany), where she teaches courses on Old Norse language, literature and culture. Anita studied in Munich (Germany) and Bergen (Norway), and holds a Dr. phil. from the LMU Munich. Her areas of research include Íslendingasögur, narratology, medieval clothing and textiles, and archaeology.

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Mikael Males

Snorri’s Use of his Sources and the Saga Authors’ Use of Snorri

Þriðjudaginn 10. febrúar 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Mikael Males
Mikael Males

This talk aims to investigate Snorri’s position in relation to the preceding tradition, as well as the subsequent use of his Edda as the most authoritative expression of that tradition. Snorri’s sources have been investigated before, but several aspects warrant closer scrutiny, such as: Did he use Litla-Skálda as a model for Skáldskaparmál and possibly even Gylfaginning? What were his methods for making Háttalykill into an authoritative treatise? How did his methods of interpretation of poetry differ between Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál?

The impact of Snorri’s Edda was profound, as can be seen from quite early on in stanzas in Sturlunga saga and þættir in Morkinskinna, and possibly even Egils saga, as well as somewhat later in Bandamanna saga and Grettis saga. I discuss all of these pseudonymous compositions in a forthcoming book, but in the talk I exemplify these trends by focusing on Grettis saga. It would seem that author and poet were one and the same person, and that he was active in the vicinity of Þingeyrarklaustur. Snorri’s Edda was all the rage among the brethren there, and the author, whether he was one of them or rather, for instance, located at the nearby Breiðabólstaður, shared their interests fully. He was one of the most gifted of the pseudonymous poets of the Icelandic High Middle Ages, and his poetic expression was deeply indebted to his study of the Edda.

Mikael Males is a postdoctoral fellow in Old Norse philology at the University of Oslo. He specializes in skaldic poetry and Icelandic grammatical literature. His main focus lies on medieval reception of the native tradition and on the interplay between Latin learning and local poetics.

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Jacob Hobson

Histories and Historical Fictions in the Old English Boethius

Fimmtudaginn 29. janúar 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Jacob Hobson
Jacob Hobson

The Old English Boethius, probably written by a member of Alfred’s court circle in the 890s, is a translation of the sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy. Although its source is a work of Neoplatonist philosophy, the Boethius displays as much interest in the old stories related in the Consolation as in the nature of fortune or the problem of free will. It treats these stories at length, including both historical accounts (such as Boethius’s life and Nero’s reign) and what it calls “old lying stories” (classical mythological narratives such as Orpheus’s descent into the underworld and Ulysses’s dalliance with Circe). While the Boethius almost always explains the meaning of these stories, the logic of these explanations does not necessarily coincide with the argument of the Consolation. Indeed, these explanations do not necessarily agree even with one another.

What is one to make of these stories? In order to answer this question, this paper will contextualize the Boethius against the literary theory current in ninth-century England. It will argue that the Boethius draws its interpretative theory from exegetical writings and educational texts rather than philosophical discourse, describing how the Boethius reads its source and the ends to which it does so.

Jacob Hobson is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Medieval Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He studies Anglo-Saxon and medieval Scandinavian literature, with a particular interest in medieval literary theory.

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Katelin Parsons

The Princess and the Pirate

St. Ursula in Icelandic Literature 1200-1800

Þriðjudaginn 20. janúar 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Katelin Parsons copy
Katelin Parsons

St. Ursula is the idol-smashing heroine of an enigmatic post-Reformation poem, Úrsúlukvæði, which features Attila the Hun as her pirate adversary and has little in common with her legend as described in hagiographical works circulating in medieval Iceland.

The oldest manuscripts preserving Úrsúlukvæði claim a link with a Danish martyrology, Niels Heldvad’s Martyrologia sanctorum (1634). This book, however, cannot be the source for the Icelandic poet’s knowledge of St. Ursula’s martyrdom. A survey of surviving medieval Icelandic texts strongly indicates that Úrsúlukvæði has its origins — surprisingly enough — in a little-studied chivalric romance, Kirialax saga, which probably dates from the fourteenth century. In my paper, I will examine the transmission of St. Ursula’s legend in Iceland over a period often split into two distinct literary eras: the Middle Ages and the Age of Learning.

Building on the conventions of romance more than virgin-martyr legends, a new fear of attack and abduction by sea pirates shapes the narrative of Úrsúlukvæði, an anxiety I examine in the light of the Turkish Raids of 1627 and literary attempts of the seventeenth century to deal with issues of guilt and innocence, culpability and retribution: Can bad things happen to good people, or are we always getting our just deserts?

Katelin Parsons is a PhD candidate in Icelandic Literature at the University of Iceland. She holds a Master’s degree in Translation Studies and is currently studying seventeenth-century Icelandic literature and social performance.

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Jan Alexander van Nahl

Take your chance?

Observations on Haralds saga Sigurðarsonar

Fimmtudaginn 15. janúar 2015 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

jan
Jan Alexander van Nahl

What determines people’s life and actions? Do things happen due to a necessity beyond human influence? Throughout the history of humanity, people have striven to give an answer to this most crucial question, not least in times of crisis, threatening fundamental values and orders. Narration has always played a fundamental role in human attempts at sense-making, allowing people to gain distance from disturbing experiences. This holds even for medieval literature: a subtle literary treatment was capable not only of describing but of reflecting upon human’s status in the course of history.

Taking this assumption as a starting point, my paper draws attention to some interesting constellations in Haralds saga Sigurðarsonar. The kings sagas are commonly said to explain a king’s life and career by means of his nature, depicting more or less stereotypical attributes which foreshadow the coming events. On the other hand, Haralds saga bears witness to the significance of even minor incidents, also involving the danger of serious trouble. The clash of (seemingly) coincidental happenings and the saga protagonists’ attempts at response allows for different assessments. Are we supposed to read these accounts as a depiction of the inevitability of every man’s life, proving any attempt at a reasonable solution insufficient? Or should we rather stress people’s freedom to choose how to react to unexpected situations? Not least, these questions give us reason to speculate on Haralds saga’s purpose in 13th century Iceland.

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.

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Andrea Maraschi

Food is language

Utopias and daily basic needs in the Middle Ages

Þriðjudaginn 25. nóvember 2014 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 422

Andrea Maraschi
Andrea Maraschi

Food was a fundamental element in many symbolic linguistic codes of the past, and this was particularly evident in medieval times. Judaic-Christian culture, just like Greek-Roman, Celtic and Norse mythologies, amongst the others, show that one of the common traits of ancient cults was the typology of their “lexicon”: food parables and allegories; the idea of a paradise with an everlasting summer, where food is available for everyone, forever; the connection between gods, natural forces and, as a consequence, abundance or lack of food, fecundity or famine. The success and effectiveness of this “food language” depended on its universal and dynamic essence: everybody could understand, memorize and spread it with basically no risk of misinterpretation. Just because the target crowds of such religious cults were mainly formed of illiterates, linguistic codes based on familiar elements (bread, wine, ale, cattle, agriculture, fishing, cooking, etc.) were undoubtedly the most suitable, pragmatic and handy ones to use. In hindsight, the “food language” can also be studied as a historical source which lets us know many aspects about food cultures of the Middle Ages, from the fear of hunger to “civilizing plants”. This lecture will cover the use of the food language as a response to people’s worry of death and the unknown, but also to their practical everyday needs, so as to get a glimpse of their mentality.

Andrea Maraschi is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Iceland where he studies the symbolic meaning of food in medieval cultures. He holds a BA degree in Modern Humanities, an MA degree in Medieval History and a Ph.D. in Medieval History, all from the University of Bologna.

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Arngrímur Vídalín

Skal ek fásk við blámann yðvarn

Merking orðsins blámaður og birtingarmyndir blámanna frá upphafi ritaldar og fram á 19. öld

Fimmtudaginn 13. nóvember 2014 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 422

Arngrímur Vídalín
Arngrímur Vídalín

Blámenn koma víða fyrir í íslenskum miðaldaheimildum og í ýmsu samhengi. Sumar sagnir af blámönnum eiga sameiginleg minni þó að árhundruð skilji að meðan aðrar nefna þá aðeins sem óskilgreindan hóp fólks. Enn önnur tilfelli standa ein sér og mörg þeirra eru fengin úr evrópskum lærdómsritum, svo sem úr Orðsifjum heilags Ísidórs frá Sevilla.

Jafnan hefur verið gengið að því sem vísu að orðið blámaður merki alltaf það sama: svartan mann eða Afríkumann. Þegar nánar er að gætt er veruleikinn flóknari og reynist orðið blámaður um margt deila merkingu með orðinu tröll, þótt hið síðarnefnda sé óræðara og blámenn þó nokkuð afmarkaðri persónur en tröll. Þrátt fyrir nokkuð lífseiga kreddu verða blámenn fyrri alda þó hvorki skilgreindir út frá húðlit né afmarkaðir við tiltekinn heimshluta svo vel sé; það gerist á síðari öldum. Þvert á móti sýna dæmin að blámenn eru illskilgreinanleg stærð í íslenskum miðaldabókmenntum.

Í fyrirlestrinum verður drepið á ýmis dæmi um blámenn í miðaldasögum, alfræðiritum og þjóðsögum og leitast við að varpa nokkru ljósi á margbreytileika þeirra og ólíka merkingu orðsins eftir samhengi, með samanburði við evrópskar heimildir þar sem við á.

Arngrímur Vídalín er cand.mag. í norrænum fræðum frá Árósaháskóla. Hann leggur nú stund á doktorsnám í íslenskum bókmenntum fyrri alda. Rannsóknarverkefninu er ætlað að skýra lærðar hugmyndir um skrímsli í heimsmynd Íslendinga frá upphafi ritaldar fram að siðskiptum.

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Natalie Van Deusen

Remnants of Catholicism

The Saints in Early Modern Icelandic Poetry

Þriðjudaginn 11. nóvember 2014 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 422

Natalie Van Deusen copy
Natalie Van Deusen

The past few decades have witnessed a veritable renaissance of academic interest in Old Norse-Icelandic hagiography, or saints’ lives from medieval Iceland. However, the Old Norse-Icelandic saints’ lives treated in recent scholarship are almost exclusively prose ones, and medieval Icelandic hagiographic poetry—which constitute a much larger corpus of Icelandic hagiographic texts overall—has remained virtually untouched, as have the hundreds of extant poems about saints from early modern Iceland. Indeed, the little that exists of secondary and reference literature on medieval and early modern Icelandic religious poetry is outdated (mostly from the first half of the twentieth century), and in desperate need of revision to meet the needs of students and scholars today.

The Legends of the Saints in Old Norse and Early Modern Icelandic Poetry, which I am co-writing with Professor Kirsten Wolf (University of Wisconsin-Madison), seeks to renew scholarly interest in this genre of Icelandic literature by providing a thorough guide to all Old Norse and early modern Icelandic poetic saints’ lives in a bibliographic format. The book is intended as a sequel to Wolf’s recently published guide to Old Norse-Icelandic prose saints’ lives (The Legends of the Saints in Old Norse-Icelandic Prose, University of Toronto Press, 2013).

This paper, which is based on this larger project, focuses on the composition and dissemination of poems about saints in early modern Iceland. It examines the continued (and in some cases, increased) popularity of stories about holy men and women in Iceland during the centuries after the Reformation, and using the poems as a cultural mirrors, considers what they can tell us about the continued relevance of Catholic saints in Protestant Iceland.

Natalie Van Deusen is an assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, where she teaches courses on Scandinavian language, literature, and culture from the Middle Ages to the present day. Her areas of research specialization include Old Norse-Icelandic philology, hagiography (poetry and prose), and gender studies. She is currently co-writing a book on saints in medieval and early modern Icelandic poetry with Dr. Kirsten Wolf (University of Wisconsin-Madison).

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Steinunn J. Kristjánsdóttir

Leitin að klaustrunum

Fyrstu niðurstöður rannsókna

Fimmtudaginn 30. október 2014 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Steinunn J. Kristjánsdóttir
Steinunn J. Kristjánsdóttir

Leitin að klaustrunum fjórtán sem rekin voru á Íslandi á miðöldum hefur nú staðið yfir í hálft annað ár. Leitað er í skjölum, örnefnum og munnmælum en einnig í efnislegum leifum þeirra úti á vettvangi. Farið var í vettvangsferðir á fimm klausturstaði á nýliðnu sumri og gagna aflað með jarðsjármælingum og töku könnunarskurða eftir yfirferð heimilda, korta og ljósmynda. Í fyrirlestrinum verður greint frá helstu áherslum í leitinni, vandamálum sem upp hafa komið og fyrstu niðurstöðum úr henni.

Steinunn J. Kristjánsdóttir lauk doktorsprófi í fornleifafræði árið 2004 og gegnir nú starfi prófessors við Háskóla Íslands og Þjóðminjasafn. Steinunn hefur lagt stund á rannsóknir á klaustrum og klausturhaldi og stjórnaði um árabil uppgrefti á Skriðuklaustri í Fljótsdal. Sem stendur vinnur hún að rannsókn á klausturhaldi almennt á Íslandi á miðöldum.

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Jonas Wellendorf

No Need for Mead

Bjarni Kolbeinsson’s Jómsvíkingadrápa and the Skaldic Tradition

Þriðjudaginn 28. október 2014 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 422

Jonas Wellendorf
Jonas Wellendorf

At the turn of the thirteenth century, the position of the traditional art form of the skalds was becoming increasingly precarious at the Scandinavian courts. Skalds faced competition from, one the one hand, jugglers and jesters, and, on the other, the written word. One skaldic response to these challenges was to attempt to increase the prestige of their craft through academization. Formal skaldic poetry became an art form cultivated by men who had received schooling and clerical ordination. At the same time, skalds turned their attention from the praise of kings of the present or the near past towards subjects of the more distant past in the new genre of the sagnakvæði, ‘historical poems’, as well as to religious themes.
Jómsvíkingadrápa by the Orcadian bishop and poet Bjarni Kolbeinsson is a prime example of these new developments. In ‘No need for Mead’ it will be argued that Bjarni, in composing about the traditional matter of the Jómsvíkings, brushed aside the Odinic mead hailed by former skalds and preferred to apply techniques of poetic composition that he had learned through the formal study of Latin poetry. His tongue-in-cheek rejection of the entire skaldic tradition and his a sensibility for love poetry enabled him to compose a poem that not only rejected the past but also (as we can see from our vantage point) pointed towards the future.

Jonas Wellendorf is assistant professor of Old Norse studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He takes a particular interest in the Latin/vernacular interface, learned literature (broadly defined), mythography, skaldic poetry of the Old Norse renaissance around 1200, and treatises on grammar and poetics. He received his PhD from the University of Bergen, Norway, in 2007.

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Þórgunnur Snædal

Þúsund ár á 35 mínútum

Um sögu og þróun rúnaletursins á Íslandi 900–1900

Fimmtudaginn 16. október 2014 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 201

Þórgunnur Snædal
Þórgunnur Snædal

Fyrirlesturinn fjallar um 1000 ára sögu rúnaletursins á Íslandi. Enginn vafi leikur á um að rúnir voru í notkun frá upphafi landnáms, enda sennilega í daglegri notkun í Noregi á þessum tíma. Í Noregi lagðist rúnanotkun að mestu af á 16. öld en hér á landi héldu menn áfram að nota rúnir eða afbrigði af rúnaletrinu langt fram á 19. öld og safna og skrifa upp ýmsan fróðleik um rúnir. Í þessu 1000 ára ferli þróaðist og breyttist rúnaletrið að sjálfsögðu og einnig hvenær og hvernig þær voru ristar eða höggnar, á kefli, stein, málm og annað. Á fyrstu öldum Íslandsbyggðar er algengast að finna rúnaristur á gripum, en um 1300 er farið að höggva rúnir á legsteina, líklega að norskri fyrirmynd. Elstu þekktu skrif um rúnir hér á landi eru frá því um 1500, en þegar líða tekur á aldirnar verða þau stöðugt algengari, yfir 100 handrit þess efnis, þau yngstu frá því um 1900, eru varðveitt í handritadeild Landsbókasafns og víðar. Þegar kemur fram á 16. öld verða ristur á gripum algengari og tölvert safn af lárum, trafakeflum, prjónastokkum, að ógleymdum Grundarstólnum frá 1551, er varðveitt í Þjóðminjasafni og víðar.

Þórgunnur Snædal nam norræn fræði við Stokkhólmsháskóla og lauk doktorsprófi 2002 frá Uppsalaháskóla. Þórgunnur starfaði í nærri 37 ár við Riksantikvarieämbetet í Svíþjóð þar sem hún hafði umsjón með hinum fjölmörgu sænsku rúnaristum. Í mörg ár hefur hún rannsakað notkun rúna á Íslandi og birt greinar um þær, m.a. í Árbók Hins íslenzka fornleifafélags.

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Marie Novotná

Rendering Old Norse Nouns and Names in Translation

Fimmtudaginn 2. október 2014 kl. 16.30
Odda 101

Marie Novotná
Marie Novotná

The rendering of Old Norse nouns and names is only a small part of the difficult task of translating Old Norse poetry and prose. However, it might well illustrate the problems faced when trying to translate Old Norse literature into another inflected language.

In Czech, there is a relatively long tradition of translation using Old Norse proper names. Recently we have tried to create general rules for translations from Old Norse into Czech which I would like to present here.

First, questions of transcription and translation will be mentioned, where the different ways of rendering proper names nowadays prevent students from identifying Sverre Sigurdsson with Sverrir Sigurðarson or Oluf with Óláfr, Olaf, Olav and Ólafur.

Second problem are the grammatical issues concerning declension and derivation, as e.g. the hopeless -r in masc. nom. sing. Do we have the right to omit it and change this basic form of the word used in all indexes and vocabularies? Or should we commit crimes against linguistics such as adding our endings to the Old Norse ones (as in English gen. Grettir’s or Russian locative Grettire)?

Some of the questions are universal for any Indo-European language, some occur only in inflected languages, but all the answers depend on language policy, tradition and the standard of the expected reader.

Marie Novotná is assistant professor in the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague where she teaches Old Norse language and literature as well as general translation theory. Apart from linguistic problems, she is currently working on the Old Norse concept of body and researching and translating Jómsvikinga saga. Marie Novotná is part of the Erasmus project Supernatural Places which is run with the participation of eight different universities.
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Rafał Borysławski

Twisted Shapes, Wound Gold

Philosophical and Literary Contexts of Anglo-Saxon Visual Arts

Þriðjudaginn 23. september 2014 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 422

Rafał Borysławski
Rafal Boryslawski

The aim of the lecture is to consider several instances of Old English visual arts (manuscript illumination, metal- and stonework) against the philosophical and literary background of their times.

The characteristic intertwined patterns of Anglo-Saxon illuminations and metalwork have been noted to resemble the Old English poetic variation, one of the essential techniques of pre-Norman Conquest English poetry. In this lecture I wish to move beyond this assumption and discuss the plausibility of the connection between Anglo-Saxon visual design and what I tentatively call “Christian philosophy of chaos” present in the neo-Platonic mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. The ineffability and elusiveness of human terms for God is, I propose, repeated in the deceptively convoluted lines of Anglo-Saxon interlace art. Seen in this light, the decorations, which have been clearly brought into the Christian world of Anglo-Saxon monastic culture from the pre-Christian era, can perhaps also be understood as reflections of both the pre-Christian and early Christian conceptions of the world in constant motion.

In the discussion I shall be chiefly referring to the ornamentation of the so-called carpet pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels as well as to the decorative design of the Staffordshire Hoard finds.

Rafał Borysławski is an associate professor in the Institute of English Cultures and Literatures, University of Silesia, Poland and his research focuses on Old English culture and literature. He has published numerous papers on Old English philosophical and cultural outlook and a book on the idea of enigmaticity in Old English literature.