Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Miðaldastofa Háskóla Íslands og Samtök móðurmálskennara

SAGATID

Henrik Poulsen og Merete Stenum Nielsen
kynna Sagatid.dk — vef um íslenskar fornbókmenntir.

Mánudaginn 24. september 2018 kl. 16.30
Stofu 311 í Árnagarði í Háskóla Íslands

SAGATID er ætlað að blása nýju lífi í kennslu íslenskra fornbókmennta á Norðurlöndum. Vefurinn varpar ljósi á þann jarðveg sem Íslendingasögurnar eru sprottnar úr, bókmenntalegt gildi þeirra og tungutak. Vefurinn sýnir jafnframt hvernig þessar bókmenntir höfða til okkar í nútímanum í gegnum túlkun norrænna nútímahöfunda á völdum köflum og verkum norrænna ljósmyndara sem mynda valda sögustaði.

Miðaldastofa Háskóla Íslands og Samtök móðurmálskennara boða til fundar mánudaginn 24. september kl. 16.30 í stofu 311 í Árnagarði í Háskóla Íslands þar sem Henrik Poulsen og Merete Stenum Nielsen kynna vefinn Sagatid.dk. Allir áhugamenn um íslenskar fornbókmenntir velkomnir.

Henrik Poulsen cand.mag. er kennslubókahöfundur og ritstjóri og hefur sent frá sér meira en fjörutíu kennslubækur.

Merete Stenum Nielsen er verkefnisstjóri og ritstjóri hjá Sagatid.dk og víðar.

Fundurinn fer fram á dönsku og ensku. Allir velkomnir.

http://www.sagatid.dk

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Kate Heslop

Ynglingatal: death in place

Fimmtudaginn 20. september 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Kate Heslop

Ynglingatal ‘Enumeration of the Ynglingar’ is a poem that we think we know—a genealogy that presents the Yngling kings as a bizarre collection of bumblers, prone to avenging sparrows, getting shut into rocks, and falling overboard. Medieval sources attribute it to the famous Norwegian skald Þjóðólfr of Hvin, composing in the late ninth or early tenth century for the obscure Rǫgnvaldr heiðumhár, who seems to have been a ruler in the borderland between the Christian Danish kingdom and the small polities of southeastern Norway. Its stanzas are transmitted in Heimskringla as the poetic backbone of the narrative of Ynglinga saga.

In my talk, I will argue that viewing Ynglingatal in the context of other poetry in the kviðuháttr metre—the metre of around 15% of the lines in the skaldic corpus, including such important encomia as Þórarinn loftunga’s Glælognskviða (c. 1032) and Sturla Þórðarson’s Hákonarkviða, from the 1260s— suggests alternative perspectives on the poem that may accord better with Ynglingatal’s place in literary history. In particular, I will explore what it could mean to turn from reading Ynglingatal as a genealogy, to reading it as an itinerary, and discuss the role that places and monuments play in its memorial rhetoric. My talk will conclude by considering Þjóðólfr’s claim to mediate memory of the distant past in the light of contemporary memorial practices in other media, in order to throw light on the evolving social institution of the skald in the ninth and tenth centuries.

Kate Heslop is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Scandinavian, UC Berkeley, where she teaches Old Norse literature. Her doctorate is from the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the poetry of Viking and medieval Scandinavia. She is a contributing editor to the Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages project.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Simon Halink

A Story of Many Snorris

The Long Afterlife of Snorri Sturluson in the Cultural Memory of Scandinavia

Fimmtudaginn 13. september 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Simon Halink

Few Icelanders have been the subject of so much praise and slander as the medieval writer, poet and chieftain Snorri Sturluson in the nearly eight centuries since his death. Already the medieval sources present the reader with an ambiguous image of a man, who was simultaneously a brilliant scholar and a great political strategist, but also a betrayer of his people and a puppet of the Norwegian king. In this presentation, I will chart the posthumous reception, or the afterlife of a man who was, as Tim Machan stated in a recent publication, so important, that he “would have to have been invented if he had not lived”. Especially his History of the Norwegian Kings (Heimskringla) and the Prose Edda attributed to him have determined the image of ancient Scandinavia well beyond his native Iceland. Yet, Snorri’s rise to prominence is by no means self-evident, and did not begin until several centuries after his death. What is easily forgotten, is that Snorri was not always considered the ‘greatest of all Scandinavian geniuses’, nor was his legacy (both literary and political) always received in a positive light. It is my intention to demonstrate how processes of secular canonisation, and nationally inspired veneration which developed around his persona and his (presumed) oeuvre in the course of the long nineteenth century (entailing the establishment of a corpus and the organisation of commemorations, among other things) could transform the memory of a long-dead medieval poet like Snorri into an instrument for articulating cultural identities in modernity. In order to do so, I will examine the profoundly ambivalent and divergent images of Snorri Sturluson in Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and in the context of more universal discourses, while focussing on an intricate ‘traitor-hero complex’ that many of these narratives appear to revolve around. How does Snorri’s role in the cultural memory of the Scandinavians differ from country to country? And how can this divergence of modern receptions be explained in the context of national identity formation?

Simon Halink is a cultural historian specialized in the study of nationalism,  currently conducting his postdoctoral research at the University of Iceland. In 2017, he took his Ph.D. at the University of Groningen, where he studied the cultivation of Old Norse mythology in modern Icelandic nationalism.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Jesse Byock

Archaeology, Sagas, the Mosfell Excavations, and the Early Maritime History of the Reykjavík Area

Fimmtudaginn 30. ágúst 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Jesse Byock

This talk presents an overview of the Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP) and focuses on recent findings. It reviews excavations in Leiruvogur Bay at the coastal mouth of Mosfellsdalur and at Hrísbrú, the farmstead of the Mosfell chieftains. These two Viking Age sites formed a 10th-century Icelandic harbor and inland administrative unit. MAP is a interdisciplinary archaeological project, employing the tools of history, anthropology, environmental sciences, forensics, botanics, and saga studies. We are researching human adaptions, social development, and environmental change in the Mosfellsdalur region. Our sites extend into the surrounding highlands and on the lowland coastal areas. We define this geographic and social community as a “valley system” that took shape immediately following Iceland’s 9th-century landnám or settlement. MAP is developing through excavation and associated research a concept of ‘Valley System Archaeology,’ that is especially suited to Icelandic and North Atlantic sites.
I will discuss the Viking Age harbor at Leiruvogur, a finding that may adjust the early historical understanding of the Reykjavík area. The Leiruvogur harbor complex and the Hrísbrú site have been generally overlooked by archaeologists and historians. Based on our recent archaeology, I propose that the inner Leiruvogur lagoon was the major regional harbor in this part of Faxaflói Bay. Control of the Leiruvogur harbor gave the Mosfell chieftains regional influence over the inner nesses. The harbor also connected Mosfellsdalur and the surrounding community to the wider Viking world, and MAP’s artifact findings show connections with regions as far away as Turkmenestan in Central Asia.

At Hrísbrú, we have unearthed the farmstead of the Mosfell chieftains, the home of the lawspeaker Grímur Svertingsson, the warrior-poet Egill Skallagrímsson, and the chieftain Önundur and his son Hrafn. The archaeologicall finds include a large, exceptionally well-preserved longhouse from Iceland’s settlement period, a pagan cremation site, a conversion-era stave church, an early Christian graveyard, and stone ship-like monuments. The mortuary practices discovered in Mosfellsdalur show a mixed pagan and Christian community. In many ways, the excavations are providing new evidence of early Icelandic life.

Jesse Byock is Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and UCLA’s Scandinavian Section. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the Director of the Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP). For the past several years, he has been at Háskóli Íslands affiliated with the Sagnfræðideild and the program in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies. Prof. Byock is author or translator of Viking Age Iceland (Penguin), Grettir’s Saga (Oxford), The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin), The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin), Feud in the Icelandic Saga (University of California Press), The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (Penguin), Islande des Vikings (Aubier Flammarion) and The Viking Language Series (Jules William Press). With Davide Zori he edited, Viking Archaeology in Iceland: Mosfell Archaeological Project (Brepols). The later presents the research of the Mosfell team.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Nadezhda Hristova

Offences against Marriage 
in the 12th–14th Centuries

Evidence from Orthodox Bulgaria and Catholic Europe

Fimmtudaginn 31. maí 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Nadezhda Hristova

In this lecture, Nadezhda Hristova discusses the attitude towards offences against marriage in the legal tradition of the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. Hristova presents results of her research based on a comparative analysis of normative and academic texts in medieval church law composed or used in the Orthodox Bulgarian Kingdom and in Catholic Western Europe in the 12th–14th centuries. Hristova examines sources such as the so-called Slavonic Ecloga (a translation into Old Bulgarian of the Byzantine Ecloga—the most important Byzantine legal work after the Code of Justinian, issued in 726 by Emperor Leo III the Isaurian; the Law of Judging People—the first original Old Bulgarian code of written laws composed at the end of the 9th century on the basis of title XVII of the Byzantine Ecloga; the Alphabetical Syntagma of 1335 composed by the Byzantine monk Matthew Blastares and enforced in Bulgaria since the middle of the 14th century; Concordia discordantium canonum (Decretum Gratiani), the first work presenting the Western canon law in a systematic order, composed in the 12th century by the canon lawyer from Bologna Gratian; the works of some of the commentators of the Decretum Gratiani known as dekretists, like Rufinus († c. 1191), Joannes Faventinus († c. 1190) and Rolandus from the Bologna school, and Stephanus Tornacensis († 1203) from the Paris school; the collection of papal letters—Decretales Gregorii IX or Liber Extra, composed in 1234 by the Catalan canonist Raymond of Penyafort.

In her lecture, Hristova expounds on problems such as the church’s vision of bigamy, to what extent medieval clergy made difference between fornication and adultery, what kind of church punishments were provided for such offences against marriage and whether their severity depended on the sex of the sinner, and what had to be the relations between a husband and a wife in case of committed adultery. The actual enforcement of the norms of canon law concerning offences against marriage will not be discussed in the lecture.

Nadezhda Hristova, PhD, is an Associate Professor in medieval history and a scientific secretary of “St. Cyril and St. Methodius” University of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Her research and publications focus on problems like the status of women in medieval Europe, the matrimonial institution and marriage relations among Orthodox and Catholic Christians, medieval common law. Nadezhda Hristova has specialized in women’s studies at the University of Oslo and the University of Cambridge.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Carolyne Larrington

‘We’re fighting the north and it’s not going anywhere’

Old Norse Myth and Culture, and Game of Thrones

Fimmtudaginn 17. maí 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Carolyne Larrington

In this lecture, Carolyne Larrington talks about the connections between medieval Old Norse-Icelandic tradition, and the HBO TV series Game of Thrones. From direwolves to the Three-Eyed Raven, from beyond the Wall to the Iron Isles, she will trace the ways in which George R. R. Martin, author of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, on which the show is based, and David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the showrunners, adapt motifs from Old Norse literature, mythology and legend to shape its vision of the North. Óðinn, Valhöll, vikings, draugar, cosmic wolves and ravens, and the very Fimbulvetr itself, that inspires one of the series’ most resonant phrases: Winter is coming.

George R. R. Martin is steeped in Old Norse mythology and Viking history, and has made creative use of themes and tropes drawn from the medieval North. In particular the show harnesses the myth and attributes of Óðinn, traditions about the undead and the frost-giants, shape-changing magic, an exaggerated view of Viking ethics in its depiction of the Iron-Born people, and the fundamental myth of ragnarök itself. The show’s vision of apocalypse is shaped by the end of the world as imagined in Völuspá, and — since both show and book series have yet to conclude — we may wonder whether the continent of Westeros can hope for the kind of rebirth that follows catastrophe in Eddic poetry. And can saga tradition offer some clues as how the great existential threat of the White Walkers and their army of undead draugar can be countered?

The lecture will both discuss and critique Martin and the show’s views of the medieval North, examining how popular cultural genres can over-simplify, but also can build creatively on the medieval past, opening up interesting questions about ethics, identity, adapting to cultural change and the ways in which power, information and technology intersect in the imagined world of Westeros.

Carolyne Larrington’s most recent book is a popular guide to Old Norse myth and legend, published by Thames and Hudson in 2017, and has translated the Poetic Edda into English. In 2015 she published Winter is Coming: the Medieval World of Game of Thrones; she has lectured across three continents on the books, the show and their parallels in medieval history, literature and imaginations.

Carolyne Larrington is Professor of medieval European literature at the University of Oxford and Official Fellow in medieval English at St John’s College, Oxford. She researches widely in Old Norse-Icelandic literature, Arthurian studies, the history of emotion and, most recently, medievalism. Author of a best-selling book on Game of Thrones, she is currently writing a sequel about the show.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Neil Price

Viking warrior women?

Reassessing Birka chamber grave Bj.581 and its implications

Þriðjudaginn 17. apríl 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Neil Price

The warrior woman or ‘shield maiden’ has long been part of the Viking image, with a pedigree that extends from the Valkyries of Old Norse prose and poetry to Wagner’s operatic fantasies and beyond. In our own times, she has taken on a new lease of life through mass-media entertainment and television drama such as the Vikings series. However, until recently the actual Viking-Age evidence for female fighters, whether real or mythical, has been sparse and ambiguous.

This lecture presents the results of a new archaeological and genomic research project in central Sweden, focussing on a single grave from the island market centre of Birka. The burial, designated Bj.581, was excavated (rather well) in 1878 and even then was seen as unusual and special. Packed with weapons and war gear, it has always been universally interpreted as the grave of a high-status warrior, held up repeatedly as a kind of ‘ultimate Viking’ of the tenth century. In line with that view, the occupant has consistently been assumed to be male.

Our project began with a coincidence, when a general osteological analysis of the Birka human bone material — including the skeleton in Bj.581 — unexpectedly suggested that the body was in fact biologically female. Intrigued by the possible implications, we undertook DNA studies that confirmed this revised sexing of the dead. The publication of these findings, and our suggestion that the occupant of Bj.581 was therefore a female warrior of high status, immediately went viral and received global media attention — much to our surprise. They also attracted controversy and critique, that in turn spread across the internet. In particular, the very integrity of the burial, and our research, was called into question: we must have analysed the wrong skeleton, or else we had somehow overlooked a second body in the grave, and so on. These issues — none of which were ever raised while the deceased was believed to be male — are addressed in the talk, but also set in a wider context. Bj.581 provides a useful case study, not just in the martial cultures of the Viking Age and the interpretation of mortuary behaviour, but in the conflicting attitudes to gender that still frame our pictures of the time.

Neil Price is Distinguished Professor of Archaeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Educated at UCL, York and Uppsala, he specialises in the Viking Age and the pre-Christian religions of the North. From 2016-2025, Neil is directing a Swedish Research Council project to explore the origins of The Viking Phenomenon.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Orri Vésteinsson

Hvernig verða ríki til?

Ísland og Noregur á 10.–13. öld

Fimmtudaginn 22. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Orri Vésteinsson

Íslendingar gengu Noregskonungi á hönd um 1260 og urðu með því þáttaskil í stjórnmálasögu landsins. Skoðanir á aðdraganda Gamla sáttmála hafa löngum verið skiptar en yfirleitt hefur þó verið gengið út frá því að líta eigi á Ísland þjóðveldisaldar sem sjálfstæða pólitíska einingu. Í fyrirlestrinum verður fjallað um þessa hugmynd út frá almennum kenningum um uppruna ríkisvalds. Þökk sé óbilandi áhuga íslenskra sagnaritara á norskum stjórnmálum er þróun ríkisvalds í Noregi frá 10. öld til þeirrar 13. betur þekkt en flestar aðrar ríkjamyndanir á sama tímabili. Þessi áhugi spratt raunar ekki af engu heldur er hann ein af mörgum birtingarmyndum þess að íslensk stjórnmál voru samofin norskum. Íslensk þjóðfélagsskipan hefði ekki haft það form og hefði ekki getað þróast eins og hún þróaðist nema af því að hún var einmitt ekki sjálfstæð og sérstök heldur hluti af stærri heild.

Ástæðan fyrir því að Ísland varð ekki formlegur hluti af Noregsríki fyrr en um 1260 var að norsku konungarnir höfðu fram undir það einfaldlega ekki möguleika á að skipa málum á Íslandi en um leið og það örlaði á getu til þess — um 1220 — riðlaðist hið innlenda valdajafnvægi á skömmum tíma vegna viðleitni íslenskra valdsmanna til að skapa sér stöðu í nýjum veruleika. Þeir börðust ekki gegn áhrifum Noregskonungs heldur fyrir því að njóta ávaxtanna af vaxandi styrk hans. Samband þeirra við konung stóð á gömlum merg og var forsenda fyrir því valdaskiptingarkerfi sem íslenskir höfðingjar höfðu komið sér upp.

Umræða um þessi efni einkennist af því að lagður er mismunandi skilningur í hugtök eins og ríki og konungsvald. Hin íslenska hefð er að leggja mikið upp úr lögfræðilegum skilgreiningum á stjórnskipan, en frá þeim sjónarhóli er hægt að tala um ríki (sbr. Free state) og þjóðveldi eða goðaveldi þegar á 10. öld. Almennar kenningar um ríkisvald, hvort sem er í mannfræði, sagnfræði eða þjóðfélagsfræði gera hins vegar yfirleitt kröfur til ákveðinnar virkni til að tala megi um ríki, atriði á borð við virkt framkvæmdavald, getu til að skattleggja og heimta skatt, og einkarétt á beitingu ofbeldis. Samkvæmt síðastnefndu kröfunni er tæplega hægt að tala um ríkisvald í Evrópu fyrr en á 16. öld, en hinar tvær sýna berlega að það er tómt mál að tala um ríkisvald í Noregi, hvað þá Íslandi, fyrir seinni hluta 13. aldar. Löngu áður höfðu hins vegar hugmyndir og valdatengsl mótast sem skilgreindu hvaða fólk gat átt saman um slík mál og í því höfðu Íslendingar spyrt sig rækilega saman við Norðmenn allt frá 10. öld ef ekki fyrr.

Orri Vésteinsson er fæddur 1967 og lærði sagnfræði við Háskóla Íslands og sagnfræði og fornleifafræði við University College London þaðan sem hann lauk doktorsprófi 1996. Hann hefur kennt fornleifafræði við Háskóla Íslands frá 2002. Rannsóknir hans snúa m.a. að íslenskri samfélagsgerð á miðöldum, landnámi, byggðaskipan og mótun samfélagsstofnana.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Paul Acker

Waterways in Icelandic Ballads

Þriðjudaginn 20. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Paul Acker

In a recent collection edited by Anne Scott and Cynthia Kosso, the contributors comment on the multiform uses of water in antique and medieval literature. It is not difficult to imagine many of these: waterways as transportation, as supplies of drinking water, as media for bathing. To cite a comparable instance, in the Swedish ballad „Tore’s Daughters,“ some young women are killed and then springs bubble up from beneath their severed heads. Tore is thus moved to consecrate a church on the spot; some may recognize this narrative as basis for Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 film Virgin Spring. The connection between holiness and a clean source of water, whether a spring or a well, is common enough in medieval saintly tales. The Icelandic version of this ballad, however, there is no spring; rather a light is seen over the daughters’ shallow grave. Water seems to be reserved for other uses in Icelandic ballads, mainly as a deadly place where drownings, accidental and homicidal, occur in proportion to the ballads’ other main theme, human relationships of love, whether marital and premarital, illicit or coerced. In this talk I will examine such instances in „The Ballad of Gauti and Magnhild“ (an analogue for the Old English poem Deor), in which a woman drowns when a bridge collapses. despite its being made (so the ballad says) of iron; „The Ballad of the Harp“ (with a close analogues in the Scottish ballad „Twa Sisters“), in which an envious sister pushes her fair sibling into the sea; „Elen’s Song,“ where a creature of the deep tries to abduct the resourceful heroine; Olaf Lilyrose, where the ocean is never quite reached as a destination and „Dialogue between a Mother and Son,“ where the drowning motif sneaks in proverbially at the end. Along the way I will comment on bridges in Old Norse literature and on the relevance of ecocritism for this topic.

Paul Acker is a Professor of English at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he teaches Old English and Old Icelandic. He earned his Ph.D. from Brown University and published a version of his dissertation as Revising Oral Theory in 1998. He researched in Iceland on a Fulbright Grant in 1980 and again in 1986, when he helped edit the Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia (1993) with Phillip Pulsiano and Kirsten Wolf. He contributed two saga translations to The Complete Sagas of Icelanders (1997) and co-edited with Carolyne Larrington two collections of essays on The Poetic Edda (2002 and 2013). He is completing a book on dragons, including Icelandic dragons, for Harvard University Press, and he is currently researching a book on Icelandic ballads, with translations into English.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.