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SCAN7214 - Vikings and Valkyries in Contemporary Culture

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Helga Luthersdottir
Teaching structure:
one assessed 4000 word essay (100%).

Module Description:

Norse myths and medieval sagas have been the source for “popular” cultural trends since the first nationalistic approach of the Romantics in 19th century Europe. Today, such Norse-based representations have established a distinct visual and thematic identity within popular culture transcending national and cultural boundaries. Through study of the source myths combined with theoretical analysis of various popular texts such as fantasy and graphic novels, comic books, film, music, video games and MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), this module will guide students to situate these depictions within a larger theoretical framework of Nordic studies and cultural theory, while simultaneously enabling them to analyse their own relationship with the various representations of the “popular Norse”.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

Primary Texts

  • Tolkien, JRR. Lord of the Rings (any edition). Students are strongly encouraged to read this text prior to start of term
  • Larrington, Carolyne (transl.) The Poetic Edda. Oxford and New York: Oxford World’s Classics, 1996
  • Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. Transl. Anthony Faulkes. London and Melbourne: Everyman Classics, 1987.
  • Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001.
  • Miura, Kentaro. Berserk: The Black Swordsman. Dark Horse Books/Digital Manga Publishing (Vol. 1. 17 Mar 2009)
  • Lee, Myung-Jin. Ragnarok. Tokyopop Press Inc (Vol. 1. 1 Jun 2004)
  • Kirby, Jack, Al Hartley, Joe Sinnott and Don Heck. The Mighty Thor Marvel Masterworks (Vol. 1. 10 Aug 2010)
  • Heaney, Seamus (transl.). Beowulf: New York: Faber and Faber, 2002.
  • Holt, Tom. Expecting Someone Taller. London: Orbit, 1991
  • Byock, Jesse L. The Saga of the Volsungs. London and New York: Penguin Classics, 1999.


  • Thor. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. USA, 2011. Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.
  • Beowulf. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. USA, 2011. Paramount Pictures.
  • Beowulf & Grendel. Dir. Sturla Gunnarsson. Canada, UK, Iceland, USA, Australia, 2005. Movision, Endgame Entertainment and Beowulf Productions Limited.
  • Outlander. Dir. Howard McCain. USA and Germany, 2008. Virtual Films, Ascendant Pictures.
  • The 13th Warrior. Dir. John McTiernan. USA, 1999. Touchstone Pictures.

Secondary Texts

  • Edensor, Tim. “Popular Culture, Everyday Life and the Matrix of National Identity.” National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2002.
  • Frith, Simon. “The Cultural Study of Popular Music.” In Cultural Studies. Lawrence Grossberg, Gary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (eds.). New York and London: Routledge, 1992, 174-182.
  • Brunt, Rosalind. “Engaging with the popular: Audiences for Mass Culture and What to Say about Them.” In Cultural Studies. Lawrence Grossberg, Gary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (eds.). New York and London: Routledge, 1992, 69-76.
  • Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.

Additional texts will be introduced as the module progresses.