Reading & Composition
"Viking" Literature in Medieval Context
Sagas of outlaws and Viking warriors fated to die. Verses containing wisdom, magic, and myth. Songs of legendary heroes and the treacheries that befall them. Medieval Scandinavians left us a vast literary inheritance in both Old Norse poetry and prose. These texts present a unique window into Scandinavian worldview that emerges on the periphery of the known world during the Middle Ages. Yet, too often approaches to these stories fail to consider the contexts in which these texts arose, were transmitted, and with which they interacted, including both the literary traditions of Christendom, and contemporary literary forms and genres popularized on the European mainland, some of which were translated into Old Norse. This course undertakes a comparative focus to Old Norse literature from the perspectives of these historical and literary contexts as a mode of reading the continuum of early- to late-medieval texts composed primarily in Iceland. As such, in our reading of Old Norse about Vikings texts we will compare them to other literary forms and genres present elsewhere in medieval Europe, perhaps thus discerning elements of this literature that might owe to external influences alongside those that might emerge as uniquely Nordic productions. All readings will be in English translation. This course will fulfill the university’s R1B course requirement.