Klaus Johan Myrvoll and Mikael Males
The Date and Purpose of Vǫluspǫ́
Tuesday, March 19, 2019, at 16.30
Vǫluspǫ́ has attracted more scholarly and popular attention than any other eddic poem, partly because of its literary qualities and partly because of its enigmatic nature. It shares a structure and many motifs with central Biblical texts, and yet almost nothing in it is unequivocally Christian. Even though its anonymity, metrics and manuscript context place it among the eddic poems, it displays several conventions that are not found in other eddic poems, but only in skaldic poetry. In order to evaluate the significance of this strong tension between Christian and non-Christian, eddic and non-eddic features, it is necessary to reconstruct the original context of composition with as much precision as possible. Available methods must be reviewed and tested.
In this talk, we focus on three aspects in particular. First, we discuss formal criteria (metrics and historical linguistics), which are disregarded in much recent scholarship. These have the advantage over other criteria that they are more susceptible to testing. Second, we evaluate the circumstances under which similar content may with some confidence be said to reflect a shared background, with particular emphasis on Christian analogues. We argue that the matches must either be very specific or be arranged in a rare way in order to rule out coincidence as a likely explanation. Third, we make use of the datable skaldic corpus, rather than the less datable eddic corpus, as a chronological axis for comparison. This is a break with the majority of eddic scholarship, where eddic poems are compared to other eddic poems. By drawing skaldic poetry into the analysis, we are able to provide some absolute dates and a clearer picture of which texts have affected which. Finally, we outline a likely context of composition.
Klaus Johan Myrvoll is associate professor of Nordic languages at the University of Stavanger. His main fields of interest are skaldic poetry and metrics, language history and runology.
Mikael Males is associate professor of Old Norse philology at the University of Oslo. He specialises in skaldic poetry and grammatical literature.
The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.