Course Convenor: Prof. Richard North
Written by and large in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by a mixed Irish and Norse people on the edge of the then known world, Old Icelandic literature is a striking phenomenon of its time, comparable in depth, range and importance to the great literatures of medieval Europe. Its heroes are mostly the Viking men and women of the ninth and tenth centuries, its geographical spread as wide as their ships could take them: Vínland in North America; the rivers of Russia; Constantinople and the cities of the Mediterranean; the British Isles. This course will appeal to any reader with the same spirit of adventure. Preliminary training in the Old Icelandic language takes place in Term 1 and the first half of Term 2 in the student's second year, enabling him or her to read extracts from sagas already read fully in translation, such as Egils saga, Njáls saga and prose and poetic extracts from works of Norse mythology. Some Norse poems on gods and heroes, such as Óðinn, Þórr and Freyja, datable to as early as the tenth century, will also be read.
The aim of the Old Icelandic course is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of the Icelandic language and background to the period to enable them to analyse the texts in terms of both their literary value and their social and cultural context. The long-term objective of this course is to produce graduates with a knowledge of some of the greatest works of Old Icelandic literature. Enough of the Old (and incidentally Modern) Icelandic language will also have been learned to equip the student for postgraduate study, or indeed life.
Students choosing Old Icelandic start the course in their second year and complete it in their third, when it is also examined. The course is taught at one hour per week each week of the teaching terms for the two years and is examined at the end of the third year in a 3-hour written examination containing seen translations and essay questions (NB: it is not possible to be examined by Course Essay for this course). Old English I or Old English II is a pre-requisite for this course. Students who want to do this course should aim to contact Richard North preferably in the spring but by no later than the end of the summer term, when reading lists and other instructions will be available.
Course availability will depend on the take-up rate.