The Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir

Emotion and Cultural Identities in the North

Old Norse Literature in a European Context

Thursday, February 15, 2018, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir

The Norse literary tradition is well known for its objective narrative style and an apparent lack of interest in the emotions of its characters. The seemingly laconic mode of portraying emotions in the Icelandic sagas — when compared with continental romance, for instance — does, however, not negate the presence of underlying emotion. Many of the sagas are in fact no less emotionally laden than the romances. This difference suggests that the emotive force of a text does not necessarily rely on emotion words or gestures (noticeably absent in sagas, but abundant in romances), but rather on the emotional signifiers with which the reader engages and to which he responds.

This lecture will focus on the way in which cross-cultural literary exchange partakes in the formation of emotive literary identities and mentalities in the North in the Middle Ages. In particular, it will explore how this complex interplay of transnational textual movement and regional identity formation reveals the role of cultural exchange and cultural resistance in the formation of literary identities and mentalities and the function emotive scripts have in actualising such cultural identities. The suggested term ‘emotive script’ is intended to encompass the literary staging of behavioural codes. The talk will explore how the various texts stage such codes.

The lecture will touch upon examples from the saga literature, including the better known sagas Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar and Brennu-Njáls saga, the translated romances as well as some Eddic poems to consider how emotions are conveyed in Old Norse literature.

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Iceland. Her most recent monograph, Emotion in Old Norse Literature: Translations, Voices, Contexts was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2017. She has published widely on literary emotion, cultural transmission, Arthurian literature and medieval romance.

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