54:462 Reading the Sagas [Winter]

This seminar will consider the Icelandic sagas as a unique literary artifact of, and critical window on, medieval Scandinavian society and culture. It will explore questions related to the genre’s origin and use, the issue of subgenre, the purpose of their creation, as well as their setting within the larger context of medieval vernacular literature. Through the reading of a series of representative texts in translation (as well as modern critical analysis of the genre), students will explore a number of themes, including: 1) Icelandic views of the natural world and resource management, 2) magic and witchcraft, 3) religious attitudes, 4) gender norms and transgressions, 5) the problem of the feud and outlawry, 6) the political and legal structures of the Free State, 7) Icelandic relations with the outside world.

Instructor: David Winter