Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu 2019–2020

Dagskrá í öfugri tímaröð (nýjast efst):

Csete Katona

Vikings of the Steppe

Scandinavian Contacts with the Nomadic World (ca. 800–1050)

Þriðjudaginn 7. apríl 2020 kl. 16.30 — FRESTAÐ/POSTPONED
Lögbergi 101

Csete Katona

The Scandinavian presence in Eastern Europe is an underrepresented field in the scholarly discourse of the Viking Age (ca. 800-1050). This is especially true for the relationship that the ‘Eastern Vikings’ (mostly known under the contemporary designation Rus’) maintained with the inhabitants of the steppe, the vast region of grasslands bordering upon the emerging Kievan Rus’ state from the South and East. The society of the early medieval nomads of this region centered around horsemen and animal husbandry. These steppic peoples were culturally or linguistically Turkic in origin and were nomadizing (changing headquarters periodically) along the major rivers that the Scandinavians used for transport in the region. In the ninth century, when the Scandinavians expanded their range of activity outside the forest zone, contact between these groups became inevitable. Four main tribal groupings bordered the main commercial routes in ninth and tenth centuries: the Khazars and the Volga Bulgars along the River Volga, and the Magyars and the Pechenegs along the River Dnieper. These nomadic tribes engaged in varying relationships with the Rus’ ranging from occasional hostilities to close co-operation in warfare and commerce.

The present talk will set forth a comprehensive picture of the Rus’-nomadic relationships and address the impact of the nomadic world upon the developing Rus’ identity and culture. It will be argued on the basis of historical and archaeological evidence that the Rus’ and nomads established close cultural links, based on shared customs and beliefs, as well as fluid communication and occasional co-habitation. The ‘nomads of the sea’, as Vikings are frequently called, were influenced greatly by the nomads of the steppe, giving rise to a diaspora that could claim affiliation not only with Scandinavia but also with the nomadic world. These conditions produced the ‘Vikings of the steppe’.

Csete Katona has recently finished his Ph.D. thesis about the Viking-nomadic contacts at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. He also holds a master’s degree in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies from the University of Iceland (2014). Currently, he is engaged in a new project on Viking retinues in the East at Central European University (Budapest) and is affiliated with two research projects, the ‘Legends of the Eastern Vikings’ (Reykjavík) and the ‘Double-edged swords in the Carpathian Basin’ (Budapest).

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Cameron Sutt

Hungarians in the Viking Era

Fimmtudaginn 2. apríl 2020 kl. 16.30 — FRESTAÐ/POSTPONED
Lögberg 101

Cameron Sutt

At roughly the same moment as the Viking raids in Western Europe, the Hungarians irrupted into Central and Eastern Europe and made their presence felt in much the same manner as the Vikings. Using the speed and maneuverability of their mounted armies, Hungarians conducted raids in force as far west as the Iberian peninsula in order to acquired plunder and tribute. Their arrival into the Carpathian Basin in 895-96 (called “The Conquest” in Hungarian historiography) destroyed the nascent Great Moravian kingdom, and until the pair of defeats at Augsburg (955) and Arcadiopolis (973), the Magyars conducted nearly annual raids to the west and south. After these defeats, Magyar raiding ceased and their martial focus shifted to an internal struggle for control of the Hungarian tribes. Ultimately the tribe of Árpád dominated the others and thereafter began a period of intense social transformation which resulted in a western-oriented Latin Christian kingdom.

In this presentation, I will discuss two topics. First, I will explore the origins of the Magyars and their social structure relying upon linguistic, archaeological and anthropological evidence. One element of this evidence are the epics of the Magyars as preserved in fragments in the works of medieval chroniclers. Second, I will discuss the connections that post-Conquest Hungarians had with Scandinavia. The most well-known connection was that of the sons of Edmund Ironsides living as refugees in the court of Stephen I after Cnut ascended to the throne of England. Far less known is a theory of the Hungarian historian Sándor Fest who postulated an altogether different connection between the North Atlantic and the Hungarians. Finally, I will discuss a different sort of connection – the modern one looking for points of comparison in the processes of Christianization and political consolidation in Scandinavia and Hungary.

Cameron Sutt is associate professor of medieval history at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Cambridge, St Catherine’s College. He specializes on society in the Kingdom of Hungary under the Árpáds.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Klaus Johan Myrvoll

Gísli Súrsson as Egða andspillir ‘friend of the Egðir

A troublesome kenning and its implications for tribal identities among the settlers in 10th-century Iceland

Fimmtudaginn 26. mars 2020 kl. 16.30 — FRESTAÐ/POSTPONED
Lögbergi 101

Klaus Johan Myrvoll

Gísla saga Súrssonar (13th c.) is famous for the tragic destiny of its main character, the Norwegian settler and outlaw Gísli Súrsson, a destiny that to some extent is predicted in the dream stanzas Gísli utters in the saga. In one of these stanzas, Gísli refers to himself as Egða andspillir ‘friend of the Egðir’, i.e. the people of the Norwegian region of Agðir. This kenning has puzzled skaldic scholars and editors of Gísla saga, and no satisfactory explanation has hitherto been proposed.

In this paper, this kenning will be explained as a sannkenning, that is a true description, which is based on some facts about the persons involved. I will evaluate the stanza’s authenticity, and given that it can be trusted, it implies that Gísli actually was the friend of someone in Iceland in the 10th century who could be called Egðir. I will identify these Egðir with the family of Ingjaldr in Hergilsey, who hid Gísli from his persecutors for three years according to the saga, and whom Gísli mentions in one of his other stanzas. Landnámabók tells us that Ingjaldr’s grandfather came to Iceland from Agðir together with the chieftain Geirmundr heljarskinn, and that Geirmundr and his men had to flee from Norway because of the newly centralized kingdom of Haraldr hárfagri. The story about Haraldr’s ofríki (‘harsh rule’) is probably exaggerated in the Icelandic tradition, but there is support in the sources for the hypothesis that a retinue of men who lost against Haraldr in the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr (c. 900), left Agðir for Iceland. The fact that Ingjaldr and his family could be called Egðir two generations and more than sixty years after they had left Agðir calls for an explanation.

This paper argues that the special background of these families in a lost kingdom of Agðir may have contributed to strengthening their identity as a special group of people in the newly populated Iceland.

Klaus Johan Myrvoll is professor of Nordic linguistics at the University of Stavanger. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oslo on the dating of skaldic poetry (2015). His main fields of interest are skaldic poetry and metrics, language history, runology and genealogy.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Bianca Patria

Playing with the system: Stylistic aspects of kenning realisation in early skaldic verse

Fimmtudaginn 19. mars 2020 kl. 16.30 — FRESTAÐ/POSTPONED
Lögbergi 101

Bianca Patria

Modern kenning scholarship appears to be polarised into systemic and stylistic approaches. Systemic studies tend to downplay or even deny the relevance of lexical choice (i.e., the actual words used by the skald), while stylistic studies often disregard the larger kenning system, on which individual creations are undeniably predicated. My analysis will draw attention to the resources employed by skalds to add extra layers of meaning to kennings, focusing on instances where lexical choice appears to have been important. Metrical and systemic restrictions make such active choices even more conspicuous.

Highly individuated use of kennings can be detected in a number of contexts:

  • (1) So-called ‘situational kennings’, relating to the narrative context in which they occur: e.g., kennings for Þórr and Þjálfi in Þórsdrápa of the kind: sverðs liðhatar ‘haters of the sword’s aid’ or gangs vanir ‘the ones accustomed to walking’ (referring to the fact that they are travelling on foot towards Geirrøðr’s home, carrying no weapons).
  • (2) Kennings developed into a broader image by harmonisation with surrounding elements: e.g., Vellekla 7/5-8, where sailing imagery underlies battle descriptions: Brak-Rǫgnir skók bogna | […] | hagl ór Hlakkar segli | hjǫrs […] ‘The sword’s noise-Rǫgnir shook the hail of bows [arrows] out of the sail of Hlǫkk [shield].’ Here, the description of arrows on shields evokes the image of hail on a sail. The most extreme variety of this phenomenon is the ‘retained metaphor’, or nýgerving, according to the definition given in Háttatal.
  • (3) Cases of deliberate quotation and verbal echo where the appropriation of another skald’s kenning is a display of authorial and tradition-awareness, rather than the mechanical rendition of stereotyped patterns.

These marked instances of kenning use, far from contradicting the general substitutive function of the trope, appear as potential developments of the system itself. While they are predicated on the system, however, their intended effect cannot be appreciated based on a system’s analysis alone, since this effect is produced by adding features which are not required by the system. The mechanichs of skaldic semantics can therefore only be fully understood through a merger of systemic and stylistic perspectives.

Some examples of such stylistic exploits will be illustrated, drawing from the material addressed in my ongoing Ph.D. project (15 dróttkvætt poems dated from the ninth to the eleventh century).

Bianca Patria graduated in the Historical Linguistics MA program at the Faculty of Philology, Literature and Linguistics at the University of Pisa. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Old Norse Philology at the University of Oslo where she is working on a research project about kenning variation and lexical selection in Skaldic verse.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Merrill Kaplan

A leek with a grain of salt: Laukr in Vǫlsa þáttr and elsewhere

Fimmtudaginn 12. mars 2020 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Merrill Kaplan

It is a commonplace of Old Norse scholarship that laukr has rich pagan significance to do with fertility. Our interpretations of texts ranging from early bracteate inscriptions (laukaʀ) to lines of eddic verse have been affected accordingly, but the idea rests on shaky ground and circular argumentation. Classical and medieval sources confirm that the onions, leeks, and other Alliums were understood as legitimately useful medical herbs that also attracted “superstitious” belief. Seeing this helps us understand the húsfreyja’s words in Vǫlsa þáttr when she ceremonially lifts the vǫlsi, líni gœddr, laukum studdr. If we look closely, we see the Vǫlsa þáttr author differentiate between legitimate and stigmatized uses of laukr, simultaneously rationalizing the weird events of the tale and characterizing the heathen housewife as a transgressor of Christian spiritual norms.

Merrill Kaplan is Associate Professor of Folklore and Scandinavian Studies at the Ohio State University, USA. She has a Ph.D. in Scandinavian from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research concerns the Old Norse-Icelandic mythological sources, the supernatural in medieval and later tradition, and digital folklore.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Mikael Males

Fóstbrœðra saga: A Missing Link?

Fimmtudaginn 5. mars 2020 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Mikael Males

There is broad consensus that kings’ sagas developed before sagas of Icelanders, and it seems plausible that sagas of Icelanders developed from the kings’ sagas, not least given the presence of þættir about Icelanders in the Oldest Saga of Saint Óláfr. The most obvious candidate for representing a ‘missing link’ between the two genres is Fóstbrœðra saga, whose end overlaps thematically, but not verbally, with the Oldest Saga (as represented by the Legendary Saga). Stylistically, Fóstbrœðra saga is in some respects unique, and I will argue that this is partly due to the fact that it is the product of an early and probably monastic attempt at creating a new kind of historical narrative: namely, what would eventually come to be known as ‘sagas of Icelanders’.

This hypothesis presupposes that Fóstbrœðra saga is a very early, possibly the earliest, saga of Icelanders, and I therefore address the date first. After that, I move on to an analysis of the saga’s stylistic peculiarities and what they may contribute to our understanding of its place in the larger literary development, as well as plausible milieus for an undertaking of this kind.

A key claim in my analysis is that the stylistic peculiarities in Fóstbrœðra saga are not best understood in light of later, translated literature, as argued by Jónas Kristjánsson. While not all scholars have accepted Jónas’s dating of Fóstbrœðra saga to the second half of the thirteenth century, his stylistic arguments have not been dealt with. I contend, however, that saga’s stylistic uniqueness must be taken at face value, and that it is more consistent with homiletic literature and poetic experiments from the twelfth and early thirteenth century than with later texts.

Mikael Males is associate professor of Old Norse Philology at the University of Oslo. He specialises in the interface of traditional poetics and Latin learning and recently published The Poetic Genesis of Old Icelandic Literature (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020).

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Yoav Tirosh & Michael MacPherson

On Ljósvetninga saga’s Redactions and What They Teach Us About Reading the Íslendingasögur

Fimmtudaginn 20. febrúar 2020 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Yoav Tirosh — Michael MacPherson

Ljósvetninga saga, one of the less-discussed Íslendingasögur, is a text that poses many questions to its editors and scholars. The text’s main challenge lies in its complex manuscript transmission and its two redactions. The redactions at times offer a very similar plot and narrative, told in almost the exact same words, while at other occasions entire stories are missing/added or told in a significantly altered manner in terms of details and order of events. This variance fed into the twentieth-century freeprose-bookprose debate in regards to the Íslendingasögur origins. When that settled down, so did the interest in this saga.

Many misunderstandings and false assumptions lay behind the interpretation of Ljósvetninga saga, which has much to do with the drama of mid-twentieth century scholarship, with each side inter-preting the evidence in a manner that suits their scholarly goals. Nowhere is this more evident than in the editions of the saga, and its translations. These manipulate the redactions’ texts, mis-lead the readers into a false sense of unity, and in the case of the A-redaction, give the impression of a much fuller and more extant text than we actually possess.

This paper will look into the issue of Ljósvetninga saga’s redactions and offer several ways of sal-vaging them: A manuscript-oriented generic one, a memory-oriented solution, and a literary in-terpretation that settles some of the text’s alleged discrepancies. Finally, a segment of the talk will be delivered by Michael MacPherson, who will discuss the stylometric analysis that we have con-ducted on the saga’s two redactions.

Stylometric studies on Old Norse literature have to-date been limited to widely-available and often heavily-editing versions of texts as their base. In contrast, the unique transmission of Ljósvetninga saga defies many assumptions made by traditional stylometric methods. This study aims to high-light the pitfalls of these traditional methods and to advance a more manuscript-informed stylo-metric methodology. Taken together, these results help to illuminate the various textual relation-ships that are at play within and without Ljósvetninga saga.

Yoav Tirosh is a post-doc researcher at the University of Iceland Disability before Disability project. He has recently finished his Ph.D. thesis, which dealt with issues of memory, genre and scholarship in Ljósvetninga saga.

Michael MacPherson holds an M.A. from the University of Iceland in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies and is currently undertaking a Ph.D. at the same university, writing on the Codex Regius of the Snorra Edda.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Rebecca Merkelbach

Alternative Histories of the Settlement?

Story-Worlds and the Fictionality of the ‘Post-Classical’ Sagas of Icelanders

Fimmtudaginn 6. febrúar 2020 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Rebecca Merkelbach

The ‘post-classical’ Sagas of Icelanders comprise a group of 14 of the Íslendingasögur which have been dated to the late medieval period, and were thus supposedly composed after 1300. Due to their assumed late date of composition, attitudes to these sagas have been almost universally negative, and only in recent years has it been acknowledged that ‘scholars have unfinished business’ with them, as Chris Callow has stated. One of the many ways in which business with these sagas is unfinished relates to their overt fictionality, to their frequent inclusion of the paranormal and fantastic, and to the way in which they play with motifs derived from folktale or romance. It is to this aspect of these narratives that I will offer a possible new approach.

Introducing the concepts of worldbuilding and story-worlds to the study of saga literature, this talk aims to firstly explore the constituents of the world(s) built by ‘post-classical’ saga narratives — their settings, characters, events, and laws. This will then enable a reassessment of their fictionality, a feature that has bothered previous scholars who considered the Íslendingasögur a genre whose main mode is historiography, and who have therefore neglected the ‘post-classical’ sagas because they did not fit this mode. This shift in focus will also allow a new approach to the ‘post-classical’ sagas as a literary product of the late medieval period — a product not characterised by decline, as most literary saga scholars have believed, but by change and subversion. Ultimately, I will present an approach that considers the ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur, in their subversive fictionality, as reflecting the needs and concerns of the present that gave rise to them: as alternative histories of the settlement, as stories that needed to be told to accommodate new socio-cultural developments in late medieval Iceland.

Rebecca Merkelbach holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen, working on a re-evaluation of the ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur. Her monograph, Monsters in Society: Alterity, Transgression, and the Use of the Past in Medieval Iceland, came out with MIP/De Gruyter in October 2019

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Luke John Murphy

An Anatomy of the Blood Eagle

The Anatomical and Sociocultural Limits of Viking Torture

Fimmtudaginn 23. janúar 2020 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Luke John Murphy

The infamous blood eagle ritual has long been controversial: did Viking-Age Nordic people really torture one another to death by severing each others’ ribs from their spine and removing their lungs, or is it all a misunderstanding of some complicated poetry? Previous scholarship on the topic has tended to focus on the details and reliability of extant medieval descriptions of the blood eagle, arguing for or against the ritual’s historicity. What has not yet been considered are the anatomical and sociocultural limitations within which any Viking-Age blood eagle would have had to have been performed.

In this presentation, I will present the results of a collaborate research project that analysed medieval descriptions of the ritual in the light of modern anatomical knowledge. I hope to contextualise these accounts with up-to-date archaeological and historical scholarship concerning elite culture and the ritualised peri- and post-mortem mutilation of the human body in the Viking Age. On the basis of these discourses, I will present our conclusions that even the fullest form of the blood eagle outlined in our textual sources would have been possible — though difficult — to perform, but would have resulted in the victim’s death early in proceedings. Given the context of the ritual depicted in medieval discourse, we also consider archaeological evidence of “deviant burials”, suggesting that any historical blood eagle would have existed as part of a wider continuum of cultural praxis, and been employed to reclaim or secure the social status of the ritual’s commissioner following the “bad death” of a male relative at the hands of the ritual’s eventual victim.

Luke John Murphy completed his Ph.D. at Aarhus University in spring 2017, held a Bernadotte Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Stockholm University in autumn 2017, and was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Leicester 2018–2019. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in Archaeology at the University of Iceland, working on early medieval religion and ritual. His research interests include ritual objects, religious and cultural transition, and method and theory in the study of Pre-Christian religions.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Timothy Bourns

Driftwood and the Divine: Ecocritical Readings of trémenn

Fimmtudaginn 28. nóvember 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Timothy Bourns

This presentation will examine trémenn and the ways in which the categories of human and wood intersect in Old Norse literature, both metaphorically and metaphysically, thus blurring the lines between human and non-human, sentient and non-sentient, mind and matter.

Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds—the tale of Þorleifr, the earl’s poet—provides an introductory case study, telling of a Norwegian king who calls upon his tutelary goddesses, the sisters Þorgerðr Hǫrgabrúðr and Irpa, to help him construct a trémaðr assassin out of a piece of driftwood and a human heart, which he sends to Iceland to kill the poet who shamed him. This wooden character is named—Þorgarðr—given clothes, and is able to walk and talk.

Drawing on wide-ranging examples, I will explore the ways in which this type of pre-Christian figure was imagined in post-conversion Iceland (e.g., the wooden idols of Freyr in Gunnars þáttr helmings and Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta); how trémenn are imbued with emotional interiority and selfhood (e.g., the ashamed trémenn in Hávamál and the tearful trémaðr in Ragnars saga loðbrókar); and how bark acts as both metaphorical and literal clothing (e.g. the Birkibeinar in Sverris saga and the Næframaðr in Örvar-Odds saga). Evidence from Sonatorrek and other skaldic verse provides parallel evidence, with a diverse range of kennings figuratively linking people with trees.

I will also analyse why driftwood in particular is used as a building material for human-tree hybrids (e.g., Askr and Embla in Gylfaginning); the symbolic connection between driftwood and fate (e.g., Ingólfr’s high-seat pillars in Landnámabók); how natural objects can be granted vitality and narrative agency (e.g., Þuríðr’s cursed driftwood in Grettis saga); and how this might relate to medieval Icelandic thinking about wood, trees, and a changing environment with limited natural resources.

I will thus argue for the merits of a more expansive, post-humanist, object-oriented, material ecocriticism to provide new readings of the Old Norse-Icelandic literary environment.

Timothy Bourns is graduate of the Medieval Icelandic Studies Master’s program. He wrote his doctoral thesis about animals in Old Norse literature at the University of Oxford, and now he is a postdoctoral researcher on the international project ‘Emotion and the Medieval Self in Northern Europe’ based at the University of Iceland.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Ryder Patzuk-Russell

Love and Learning: Social Bonding and Friendship in Medieval Icelandic Education

Fimmtudaginn 21. nóvember 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Ryder Patzuk-Russell
Ryder Patzuk-Russell

Education in medieval Icelandic took many forms. It could be the more or less informal imparting of practical knowledge from a foster-parent to their child, or the careful training of an aspiring priest at a monastery or cathedral school, or something in between. These student-teacher relationships were a fundamental type of social bond throughout the medieval period. Such bonds were, of course, grounded by a number of different emotions, but these emotions are only rarely expressed in the extant sources. This paper will focus on some of the most explicit references from the biskupasögur corpus. These references are primarily expressions of love and friendship between students and teachers in the monasteries and bishoprics, and show a clear relationship to broader European and classical norms for expressing love and friendship. There is thus a fundamental tension and uncertainty in how much the emotional expressions may reflect real feelings, or even real expectations for the social expression of feeling, and how much they may be purely literary tropes.

At the eleventh-century school of bishop Ísleifr Gizurarson at Skálholt, as described in Jóns saga helga, Bishop Ísleifr and the future Saint Jón Ögmundarson are said to have been bonded through a love inspired by the virtue and promise Ísleifr saw in his student. In the fourteenth century, in Lárentíus saga, a similar type of relationship is described between bishop Lárentíus and his student Bergr Sokkason at the monastery of Þingeyrar. However, the saga describes slightly different relationships between Lárentíus and his other students. Finally, these examples from institutional schools can be compared to Guðmundar saga, where Guðmundr Arason is presented as having a more paternal affection for his students, who are also his foster-children. These main references to the emotions between students and teachers can likewise be compared to more implicit references in the other biskupasögur, notably Saint Þorlákr’s relationship with Eyjólfr Sæmundarson.

Bishops Ísleifr and Lárentíus and their students are both described in ways fitting classical Ciceronian ideals of friendship, which were widely disseminated in the medieval church. These ideals were particularly important in eleventh-century cathedral schools, and it is not impossible that they made their way to Iceland. Once in Iceland, they would have interacted with the emotions and expectations that had existed before Christianity between foster-parents and the children they raised and instructed.

Ryder Patzuk-Russell is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Iceland. He is currently undertaking a three-year project exploring the liturgy of medieval Iceland. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Birmingham in 2017. His dissertation dealt with medieval Icelandic schools and education.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Jan A. Kozák

Body Parts and Metaphors

The Logic of Transformations in Old Norse Mythology

Þriðjudaginn 19. nóvember 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögberg 101

Jan A. Kozák

The talk will offer an answer to the question „Why are myths so weird?“ that is: why are myths articulated in the form of surreal images and stories and not in “plain speech.” The Old Norse mythology contains a number of especially surreal motifs of body transformation that serve as crucial points of cosmogony: gods or other anthropomorphic beings are dissected or wounded in various ways and these acts translate directly to the establishment of the Cosmos and its various features (e.g. Mímir’s head, Kvasir’s blood, Týr’s hand, Óðinn’s eye, Ymir’s whole body, Þjazi’s eyes, Aurvandill’s toe, etc.). I will show, however, that these mutilations and body transformations follow a specific logic which can be described and understood with the help of new insights provided by cognitive linguistics and semiotics of religion.

Recent studies into conceptual metaphors and other basic tropes (metonymy, synecdoche, irony) reveal their constitutive role in our cognition and in the construction of cultural codes. Mythology as a code is special in this respect, because it applies conceptual metaphors much more ‘boldly’ and in much wider scale than everyday speech or realistic genres — building whole myths out of them, hence the surreal nature of the narratives. We will go through the various myths where body symbolism is prominent and establish a ‘typology of tropes’. This system will be then put in the wider context and we will review the same principles of association based on conceptual metaphors using the examples of magical practices, visual symbolism, sacred and secular art. One of the goals of the talk is to show how even the weird and fantastic motifs that we find in myths and magical practices are built on concepts that have their roots in our bodily experience (mediated through culture). This theoretical framework is especially useful for systematic comparison of various eras or neighbouring cultures.

Jan A. Kozák (MA, PhD) is Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Bergen, researching body symbolism in Old Norse myth. He holds a Ph.D. in History of Religions from the Charles University of Prague. His publications include a bilingual edition of Hervarar saga and articles on initiatory structure in myth and heroic legend.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Katarzyna Anna Kapitan

When a king of Norway became a king of Russia

Transmission and reception of legendary sagas in early-modern Scandinavia

Fimmtudaginn 14. nóvember 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Katarzyna Anna Kapitan

Old Norse legendary sagas (Ice. fornaldarsögur) played an important role in Scandinavian historiography at the dawn of absolutism. These sagas, generally forgotten until the middle of the seventeenth century, by the end of the very same century served as sources to construct narrative about splendid legendary past of Scandinavian countries. They were used not only in Sweden, where the early editions of these texts originate, but also in Denmark and Norway, where they served as supplementary material to Saxo’s Gesta Danorum and Snorri’s Heimskringla.

This presentation uses an example of a single saga, Hrómundar saga Greipssonar, its transmission and reception, to showcase how the legendary sagas were used to serve political purposes. Not only how were they read and interpreted, but also how they were written and re-written. The transmission history of Hrómundar saga delivers good examples for the practice of manipulating the narratives in order to satisfy the contemporary antiquarian interest.

This famous lost saga recited at the wedding feast in Reykhólar in 1119, according to Þorgils saga ok Hafliða, is not preserved in prose form in any medieval manuscript. Surprisingly it appears, however, in a number of late seventeenth-century manuscripts. These manuscripts are associated with Jón Eggertsson (1643–1689), a poet, scribe and manuscript collector on behalf of the Swedish Antikvitetskollegium, and Þormóður Torfason (1636–1719), the royal Danish antiquarian and author of, among other works, Series dynastarum et regum Daniæ and Historia rerum Norvegicarum. The early transmission history of this saga shows that the scribes and readers of this story were especially interested in place names and genealogies appearing in the text, and that they treated its accounts as historical sources. The level of manipulation into the text of the saga led to a somewhat comical misunderstanding used in the title of this presentation, when Óláfr, king of Norway, became a king of Garðaríki (Rus), which made its way to one of the most recent popular translations of the saga.

Katarzyna Anna Kapitan (MA, PhD) is H.M. Queen Margrethe II Distinguished Research Fellow at the Museum of National History, Frederiksborg Castle, where she works on the reception of Old Norse literature in Danish historiography. Her research interests include manuscript studies, digital scholarly editing, transmission history and textual criticism, as well as history of historiography.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Matthew Driscoll

Kæri Fiðr: Assessing the legacy of Finnur Jónsson

Fimmtudaginn 7. nóvember 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Matthew Driscoll

Finnur Jónsson (1858-1934), professor of Nordic philology at the University of Copenhagen, was among the most prominent and prolific Old Norse scholars of his day, producing editions, often more than one, of an extraordinarily large number of works both in verse and prose. In addition to his editorial activity, Finnur also wrote hundreds of studies of a literary historical or critical nature. The list of his publications compiled shortly after his death comprises over 500 items.

Although Finnur Jónsson was without question one of the most important figures in the history of Old Norse philology, he was, and remains, also one of the most controversial. He engaged in protracted academic feuds with a large number of other scholars during his lifetime, and many of his publications have been the subject of highly critical assessments following his death.

In my paper I will attempt a reassessment of Finnur Jónsson’s legacy, trying to prove neither that he was a far better nor a far worse scholar than previously believed, but attempting simply to understand better what he did and why he did it, and show how his ghost in many ways still haunts us today.

Matthew Driscoll (Cand.mag., DPhil (Oxon.)) is Professor of Old Norse Philology at the University of Copenhagen. His publications include articles and books on various aspects of late pre-modern Icelandic literature, as well as editions and translations of a number of medieval and post-medieval Icelandic works.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Massimiliano Bampi

The Dynamics of Texts and Genres in Manuscript Transmission

Fimmtudaginn 31. október 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Massimiliano Bampi

In medieval Europe, various types of texts were often collected in large manuscripts, customarily referred to as either compilations or collections. Such collections are of great interest for a number of reasons:

  • They give us insight into the kind of textual materials that were collected in certain contexts, thus allowing for comparison both within the same culture (i.e., in different manuscripts from different social contexts) and across cultures.
  • They provide evidence for the study of the interaction (a) between various literary genres and (b) between original literature and translated literature.
  • They provide evidence for assessing hypotheses about how texts belonging to different genres and originating from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds were possibly used, both for the purpose of entertainment and instruction as well as for the purpose of discussing relevant themes (e.g., social and political ones) of the time in which the manuscripts were produced.

In this talk I will discuss a few examples from medieval Sweden and Iceland to illustrate how an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to manuscript studies can help throw new light on the complex and multifaceted dynamics of texts and genres within various manuscript contexts, especially with regard to the relevance of such dynamics for the study of generic hybridity.

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.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Vicki Szabo

Reassessing Whale Use in the Medieval North Atlantic

History, Archaeology, DNA, and New Species Stories

Þriðjudaginn 22. október 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Vicki Szabo

Marine mammals fueled life and livelihood through much of the North Atlantic Middle Ages. Their meat sustained sailors and settlers, their travels and migrations aided navigation, and their skin and bones housed, supplied, and provided for countless households. Reliance upon marine mammals across the Norse North Atlantic is documented from the early Viking Age and beyond, from Norway all the way to North America. From the settlement of Iceland through the early modern period, Norwegian and Icelandic authors documented whales in great detail in sagas, laws, and illuminations, offering cultural and economic descriptions and natural histories related to each species. As our recent study has also revealed, the bones of whales left behind on Icelandic archaeological sites offer important new evidence for the history of whale use in the medieval North Atlantic.

This lecture looks at historical, literary, and visual data on whales from the premodern North Atlantic as a valuable form of environmental proxy data. Authors and texts surveyed will include Old Norse literary, historical, and legal sources reflecting marine mammal use and division. Comparison of northern authors’ accounts of marine mammals from the tenth through the sixteenth century offers a broad look at perceptions about whales, but also a unique source of proxy data that could reflect changing whale populations and habitats. Descriptions of species, in their presence, absence, quantities, qualities or behaviors could signal an early recognition of maritime change, as salinity, currents, temperatures, and prey patterns shifted across the North Atlantic in the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. In short — whales can be seen as marine sentinels of climate change. Norse or Icelandic accounts are juxtaposed with more well-known medieval and classical authors’ descriptions of marine mammals, especially Pliny, Strabo, the Physiologus and Bestiary traditions. The lecture will conclude with a brief discussion of other transdisciplinary approaches to medieval marine mammal exploitation and premodern animal biogeographies, namely through the use of ancient DNA and other forms of molecular analysis of medieval marine mammal bones from archaeological contexts. An interdisciplinary approach to the medieval environment reveals a hitherto unappreciated depth of knowledge of marine species but also more realistic approximation of the value of marine resources in medieval economies.

Vicki Szabo received her Ph.D. in Medieval Studies at Cornell University and currently serves as an Associate Professor of History at Western Carolina University. Her research focuses on medieval environmental history, the medieval North Atlantic, and the history of whaling.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Ingunn Ásdísardóttir

Ein saga eða tvær? Fyrra og síðara dæmi Óðins í nýju ljósi

Fimmtudaginn 10. október 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Ingunn Ásdísardóttir

Í erindinu setur Ingunn fram nýja túlkun á þeim vísum Hávamála sem nefndar hafa verið Fyrra og Síðara dæmi Óðins, þ.e. vísur 104–110 (heimsókn Óðins til Suttungs jötuns) og vísur 138–141/2 (sjálfsfórn Óðins); byggir hún á því í fyrsta lagi að þessi kvæðisbrot eigi saman og í öðru lagi að þau séu staðsett í kvæðinu í öfugri röð. Með þessari túlkun verður annars vegar til samhangandi og skiljanlegur söguþráður og hins vegar koma fram náin tengsl við ákveðin tilvik eða kringumstæður í nokkrum öðrum eddukvæðum, einkum að því er varðar hlutverk jötunkonunnar.

Samkvæmt viðtekinni heimildarýni skyldu menn ekki hringla í heimildunum eins og þær birtast í handritinu, þ.e. hvorki breyta vísnaröð í kvæðum né leiðrétta texta. Viðurkennt er aftur á móti að sum goðakvæða eddukvæðanna eru að öllum líkindum samsafn tveggja eða fleiri kvæða eða stakra vísna og að upprunakvæðið/kvæðin sé/u óþekkt. Þetta á, til dæmis, við um Hávamál sem talið er vera ósamstætt samsafn nokkurra kvæða eða kvæðahluta. Hér er litið svo á að í þessum tilfellum geti nálgun heimildarýninnar hugsanlega verið of ströng og í erindi verða færð rök fyrir því út frá ofannefndum vísum í Hávamálum.

Ingunn Ásdísardóttir, bókmennta- og þjóðfræðingur varði doktorsritgerð sína í norrænni trú vorið 2018 en þar fjallar hún um jötna hins norræna goðaheims og setur fram nýstárlegar kenningar um þá, sem ganga gegn viðteknum hugmyndum um að jötnar séu alfarið andstæðingar goðanna í Ásgarði. Ingunn er sjálfstætt starfandi fræðimaður í ReykjavíkurAkademíunni.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

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Jonathan Wilcox

The Value of Treasure in Anglo-Saxon England

Beowulf, Mercia, and the Staffordshire Hoard Ten Years On

Fimmtudaginn 3. október 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Jonathan Wilcox

In 2009, a metal detectorist brought to light a spectacular collection of high-status metal-work from Anglo-Saxon England, the Staffordshire Hoard. It primarily comprised weapons, richly decorated with gold and garnets, but all cut down into small pieces. The find greatly augments our knowledge of Anglo-Saxon swords and fills out the thin survival of high-status helmets, as well as including one textual inscription. In the ten years since the discovery, these objects have been the subject of intense research as they have been preserved and displayed. This talk will explore and illustrate the find, both in its original state and in some of the exciting recent reconstructions.

The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard does much to illuminate the world of Mercian kings in the seventh or eighth century. Prior knowledge of early Mercia before the powerful king, Offa (reigned 757-796), was surprisingly thin, and the hoard provides a salutory reminder of the wealth of the region. It also serves to illustrate the world of the poem, Beowulf. The poem is hard to date or localize precisely. It is an epic tale of a hero’s combat with monsters, but it is also a poem obsessed with the shiny appearance of weapons, which occasionally serve in battle, but more often serve as signifiers of status and of glory. I will suggest that Beowulf can help anchor an understanding of the Staffordshire Hoard just as the Staffordshire Hoard can expand our understanding of Beowulf. While the link is not a precise one, the meaning of such glorious shiny metal-work was likely to have been strikingly similar for the Mercian king who buried the hoard to what it was for the poet and audience of Beowulf.

This talk, then, will explore the implications of the Staffordshire Hoard for understanding the ideology of Anglo-Saxon kings and the imaginative world of the poem, Beowulf. The talk will be illustrated and delivered in English.

Jonathan Wilcox is Professor of English and Faculty Fellow at the University of Iowa, where he teaches medieval literature. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, has published widely on Old English literature and culture, and is currently working on a book on Anglo-Saxon humor. He is a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Iceland for Fall 2019.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

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Gottskálk Jensson

Að gefa út upp á guðbrenzku eða upp á koðrænu

Nýja textafræðin um miðbik nítjándu aldar og deilurnar um fyrstu málsögulegu útgáfurnar af íslenskum fornritum

Fimmtudaginn 26. september 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Gottskálk Jensson

Á árunum 1857-1860 lentu tveir Hafnar-Íslendingar, þeir Konráð Gíslason (1808–1891) og Guðbrandur Vigfússon (1827–1889), í ritdeilu um aðferðirnar sem bæri að viðhafa þegar íslensk fornrit eru gefin út á prenti. Þótt efnið væri þurrt og sérhæft tókst þeim samt að skemmta meinfýsnum löndum sínum á kostnað hvor annars jafnframt því sem þeir miðluðu fræðslu um hvað væri efst á baugi í texta- og útgáfuvísindum í Kaupmannahöfn.

Guðbrandur vakti deiluna með grein í Nýjum félagsritum 1857 „Um stafróf og hneigíngar“ en þar gagnrýndi hann stafsetningu Konráðs, einkum það að skrifa „je“ í stað „é“, sem hann sagði ungt og komið frá prentsmiðjunni í Leirárgörðum. Konráð svaraði í akureyrska fréttablaðinu Norðra og sýndi Guðbrandi sem var yngri að árum og skemmra á veg kominn í fræðunum megna fyrirlitningu, uppnefndi málfræði hans „guðbrenzku“ en hann sjálfan „Goðbrand“ — og síðar í annarri grein „Joðbrand“ fyrir andstöðuna við „je“-stafsetninguna. Guðbrandur baðst þá hálfgert vægðar í Reykjavíkurblaðinu Þjóðólfi en reyndi þó eitthvað að svara í sömu mynt, meðal annars með því að kalla málfræðiskrif Konráðs „koðrænu“. Í Ný félagsrit 1858 skrifaði Guðbrandur síðan merkilegan ritdóm um nokkrar nýlegar Íslendingasagnaútgáfur frá Norræna fornritafélaginu í Kaupmannahöfn, þar á meðal útgáfu Konráðs af Gísla sögu frá 1849. Auk þess að benda á verulegan ágalla á útgáfunni (mikilvægt skinnbókarbrot hafði gleymst) skammar hann Konráð fyrir að gefa út „stafsetníngar útgáfur“ (þ.e. stafréttar útgáfur) sem hann fullyrðir að séu „erlendar að kyni“, Íslendingum hafi aldrei líkað slíkar útgáfur „því þeir vita sem er að sögur eru til þess, að læra á sagnafróðleik og forna siðu forfeðra sinna, en ekki til þess að læra á þeim skinnbóka eðr múnkaskript“. Konráð svaraði aftur með skætingi og útúrsnúningum í þremur stuttum greinum í Norðra árin 1858 og 1860 sem hann kallaði „Um guðbrenzku I-III“.

Þótt blaðadeilur þessar væru kersknisfullar bjó alvara að baki enda voru báðir menn frumkvöðlar í beitingu nýju textafræðinnar á íslensk fornrit og áttu þátt í því að móta tvenns konar viðmið um frágang fornritaútgáfna sem síðar urðu viðtekin vinnuregla. Í erindinu hyggst ég skoða bakgrunn ritdeilunnar í nýju textafræðinni en helsti fulltrúi hennar í Kaupmannahöfn var Johan Nicolai Madvig (1804–1886), prófessor í klassískum fræðum. Ég mun einkum reyna að lýsa framlagi Konráðs Gíslasonar, nemanda Madvigs, til þessara útgáfuvísinda en hann þróaði öðrum fremur nýja tegund vísindalegrar útgáfu sem sérstaklega var ætlað að vera rannsóknargagn fyrir íslenska málsögu og samanburðarmálfræði.

Gottskálk Jensson er doktor í klassískum fræðum. Hann er dósent á Árnasafni í Kaupmannahöfn og gestaprófessor við Íslensku- og menningardeild Háskóla Íslands. Hann fæst einkum við athuganir á íslenskum latínubókmenntum og grísk-rómverskri frásagnarlist.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

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Arngrímur Vídalín

Narfeyrarbók: Síðasta alfræðirit miðalda á Íslandi

Fimmtudaginn 12. september 2019 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Arngrímur Vídalín

Handritið AM 194 8vo hefur nokkra sérstöðu meðal íslenskra handrita. Ekki aðeins hafa skrifarar þess merkt sér handritið, þeir Ólafur Ormsson og Brynjólfur Steinraðarson, heldur er ritunartíma handritsins og einnig getið, árið 1387, og ritunarstaður: Geirríðareyri, nú Narfeyri, á Snæfellsnesi. Óvanalegt er að svo nákvæmar upplýsingar liggi fyrir um uppruna handrita.

Einnig er greinilegt að skrifarar AM 194 8vo hafa haft aðgang að hinum ýmsu ritum við gerð bókarinnar. Þetta má ekki síst merkja á því að fyrirmyndir ýmissa kafla bókarinnar eru til varðveittar í öðrum handritum, til að mynda í Hauksbók. Einkum er handritið þó þekkt fyrir að geyma leiðarlýsingu frá Íslandi til Jórsala, sem eignuð er Nikulási ábóta.

Sú leiðarlýsing er raunar hluti af talsvert stærri landafræðiritgerð, sem rammar inn efni bókarinnar að miklu leyti. Söguskoðun bókarinnar er kristileg, að í upphafi hafi Guð skapað heiminn og að mannkynið hafi átt sinn sess í paradís, en glatað honum. Síðan byggðist hver heimsálfa upp af sínum syni Nóa: Jafet varð ættfaðir Evrópumanna, Sem varð ættfaðir Asíumanna, og hinn fordæmdi Ham varð ættfaðir Afríkumanna. Á þessum grundvelli byggist svo landafræði AM 194 8vo og þau fræði sem fylgja í kjölfarið: kafli um skrímslislegar þjóðir, kafli um orma og dreka, kafli um steinafræði, kafli um læknisfræði, og svo mætti lengi telja. AM 194 8vo er í senn trúarrit og vísindarit, hugmyndafræði þess mjög í anda evrópskra lærdómsrita hámiðalda.

Handritið gaf Kristian Kålund út að mestu árið 1908, en skildi undan upphaf handritsins sakir þess að samsvarandi hluti úr öðru handriti, GKS 1812 4to, hafði áður verið gefinn út af Ludvig Larsson. Engin heildarútgáfa er því til af AM 194 8vo, og útgáfa Kålunds er komin nokkuð til ára sinna.

Í þessum fyrirlestri verður fjallað um nauðsyn nýrrar fræðilegrar útgáfu á AM 194 8vo sem fyrirlesari vinnur nú að. Útgáfan verður tvímála, á frummálinu og á ensku, enda hefur verið mikil þörf á þýðingum á minna þekktum íslenskum miðaldaritum.

Arngrímur Vídalín er doktor í íslenskum bókmenntum og aðjunkt í sömu grein við Menntavísindasvið Háskóla Íslands. Rannsóknir hans liggja á sviði bókmenntafræði og hugmyndasögu og nú vinnur hann að fræðilegri útgáfu á handritinu AM 194 8vo auk handbókar um Grettis sögu.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

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