Ynglingatal: death in place
Fimmtudaginn 20. september 2018 kl. 16.30
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.
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