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SCAN2402 - Old Norse 1

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Erin Goeres
Teaching structure: Classes will take the form of seminar-style discussions in which the translation of key passages will be set within the wider context of Old Norse literary criticism and current scholarly debates.
Assessment: one unseen three-hour written examination (70%); and one 2 500 word essay (30%).

Module Description:

This module will build on ‘An Introduction to Old Norse’ and will continue to familiarise students with the language and literature of Viking and medieval Scandinavia. The first term will focus on the development and characteristics of the Icelandic saga, while the second term will explore the mythological treatise Snorra Edda and the use of Old Norse mythology in Eddic and skaldic poetry.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

Nearly all translation passages will be taken from A New Introduction to Old Norse – Part II: Reader, ed. Anthony Faulkes (London, 2008). Students are also advised to review topics covered previously in A New Introduction to Old Norse – Part 1: Grammar, ed. Michael Barnes (London, 2004) before the start of term. Both volumes, as well as the accompanying glossary, are available online.

Set texts from the Reader will include Njáls saga, Íslendinga saga and Kormáks saga in the first term, and Skáldskaparmál and Hamðismál in the second term. Additional material will be provided in class.

It is strongly recommended that students read the entirety of Njáls saga in translation (available in Penguin Classics, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders or similar) before the start of term.

Useful secondary sources include:

  • Theodore M. Andersson, The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180-1280) (Ithaca, NY, 2006)
  • Heather O’Donoghue, The Genesis of a Saga Narrative: Verse and Prose in Kormáks saga (Oxford, 1991)
  • David Clark, Gender, Violence and the Past in Edda and Saga (Oxford, 2012)

Useful reference works:

  • Carol J. Clover and John Lindow, ed., Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Critical Guide (Ithaca, NY, 2005)
  • Rory McTurk, ed., A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture (Oxford, 2005)
  • Philip Pulsiano et al, ed., Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia (London, 1993).