MA Medieval & Renaissance Studies

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SCANG013 Introduction to Old Norse


Credits: 30

Timetable: TBC

Please note: The module is taught alongside the undergraduate module, SCAN1401. Graduate students will receive five extra hours of tutorials on topics to be determined in consultation with the lecturer.

Old Norse, the medieval precursor to the modern Scandinavian languages, was once heard throughout Europe and beyond. During the Middle Ages Scandinavian ships travelled west to North America and east to Istanbul. The scope and variety of the Old Norse literary corpus matches the remarkable span of these journeys: myths and legends, love- and battle-poetry, prose narratives about kings, adventurers, poets and saints are all found in Old Norse. This module will introduce students to a wide range of Old Norse language and literature, situated within the broader context of the history and culture of Viking and medieval Scandinavia. Students will develop a good understanding of the basics of Old Norse grammar and by the end of the module will be able to translate medieval Icelandic prose and some forms of poetry. They will become familiar with key texts in the Eddic, skaldic and saga traditions, and will begin to explore ways in which contemporary scholarship can shed light on the complex but rewarding world of medieval literature.

Assessment: 1 X 3-hour examination

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

Students are advised to obtain a copy of A New Introduction to Old Norse – Part 1: Grammar, ed. Michael Barnes (London, 2004).

The two set texts will be Ari Þorgilsson’s Íslendingabók and Auðunar þáttr in A New Introduction to Old Norse – Part II: Reader, ed. Anthony Faulkes (London, 2008). Both volumes, as well as the accompanying glossary, are available online.

The following will offer a good introduction to the subject:

  • Margaret Clunies Ross, The Cambridge Introduction to the Old Norse-Icelandic Saga (Cambridge, 2010)
  • Heather O’Donogue, Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Short Introduction (Oxford, 2004).
  • Any of the texts in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection (London, 2000).

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