Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Neil Price

Viking warrior women?

Reassessing Birka chamber grave Bj.581 and its implications

Þriðjudaginn 17. apríl 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Neil Price

The warrior woman or ‘shield maiden’ has long been part of the Viking image, with a pedigree that extends from the Valkyries of Old Norse prose and poetry to Wagner’s operatic fantasies and beyond. In our own times, she has taken on a new lease of life through mass-media entertainment and television drama such as the Vikings series. However, until recently the actual Viking-Age evidence for female fighters, whether real or mythical, has been sparse and ambiguous.

This lecture presents the results of a new archaeological and genomic research project in central Sweden, focussing on a single grave from the island market centre of Birka. The burial, designated Bj.581, was excavated (rather well) in 1878 and even then was seen as unusual and special. Packed with weapons and war gear, it has always been universally interpreted as the grave of a high-status warrior, held up repeatedly as a kind of ‘ultimate Viking’ of the tenth century. In line with that view, the occupant has consistently been assumed to be male.

Our project began with a coincidence, when a general osteological analysis of the Birka human bone material — including the skeleton in Bj.581 — unexpectedly suggested that the body was in fact biologically female. Intrigued by the possible implications, we undertook DNA studies that confirmed this revised sexing of the dead. The publication of these findings, and our suggestion that the occupant of Bj.581 was therefore a female warrior of high status, immediately went viral and received global media attention — much to our surprise. They also attracted controversy and critique, that in turn spread across the internet. In particular, the very integrity of the burial, and our research, was called into question: we must have analysed the wrong skeleton, or else we had somehow overlooked a second body in the grave, and so on. These issues — none of which were ever raised while the deceased was believed to be male — are addressed in the talk, but also set in a wider context. Bj.581 provides a useful case study, not just in the martial cultures of the Viking Age and the interpretation of mortuary behaviour, but in the conflicting attitudes to gender that still frame our pictures of the time.

Neil Price is Distinguished Professor of Archaeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Educated at UCL, York and Uppsala, he specialises in the Viking Age and the pre-Christian religions of the North. From 2016-2025, Neil is directing a Swedish Research Council project to explore the origins of The Viking Phenomenon.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Orri Vésteinsson

Hvernig verða ríki til?

Ísland og Noregur á 10.–13. öld

Fimmtudaginn 22. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Orri Vésteinsson

Íslendingar gengu Noregskonungi á hönd um 1260 og urðu með því þáttaskil í stjórnmálasögu landsins. Skoðanir á aðdraganda Gamla sáttmála hafa löngum verið skiptar en yfirleitt hefur þó verið gengið út frá því að líta eigi á Ísland þjóðveldisaldar sem sjálfstæða pólitíska einingu. Í fyrirlestrinum verður fjallað um þessa hugmynd út frá almennum kenningum um uppruna ríkisvalds. Þökk sé óbilandi áhuga íslenskra sagnaritara á norskum stjórnmálum er þróun ríkisvalds í Noregi frá 10. öld til þeirrar 13. betur þekkt en flestar aðrar ríkjamyndanir á sama tímabili. Þessi áhugi spratt raunar ekki af engu heldur er hann ein af mörgum birtingarmyndum þess að íslensk stjórnmál voru samofin norskum. Íslensk þjóðfélagsskipan hefði ekki haft það form og hefði ekki getað þróast eins og hún þróaðist nema af því að hún var einmitt ekki sjálfstæð og sérstök heldur hluti af stærri heild.

Ástæðan fyrir því að Ísland varð ekki formlegur hluti af Noregsríki fyrr en um 1260 var að norsku konungarnir höfðu fram undir það einfaldlega ekki möguleika á að skipa málum á Íslandi en um leið og það örlaði á getu til þess — um 1220 — riðlaðist hið innlenda valdajafnvægi á skömmum tíma vegna viðleitni íslenskra valdsmanna til að skapa sér stöðu í nýjum veruleika. Þeir börðust ekki gegn áhrifum Noregskonungs heldur fyrir því að njóta ávaxtanna af vaxandi styrk hans. Samband þeirra við konung stóð á gömlum merg og var forsenda fyrir því valdaskiptingarkerfi sem íslenskir höfðingjar höfðu komið sér upp.

Umræða um þessi efni einkennist af því að lagður er mismunandi skilningur í hugtök eins og ríki og konungsvald. Hin íslenska hefð er að leggja mikið upp úr lögfræðilegum skilgreiningum á stjórnskipan, en frá þeim sjónarhóli er hægt að tala um ríki (sbr. Free state) og þjóðveldi eða goðaveldi þegar á 10. öld. Almennar kenningar um ríkisvald, hvort sem er í mannfræði, sagnfræði eða þjóðfélagsfræði gera hins vegar yfirleitt kröfur til ákveðinnar virkni til að tala megi um ríki, atriði á borð við virkt framkvæmdavald, getu til að skattleggja og heimta skatt, og einkarétt á beitingu ofbeldis. Samkvæmt síðastnefndu kröfunni er tæplega hægt að tala um ríkisvald í Evrópu fyrr en á 16. öld, en hinar tvær sýna berlega að það er tómt mál að tala um ríkisvald í Noregi, hvað þá Íslandi, fyrir seinni hluta 13. aldar. Löngu áður höfðu hins vegar hugmyndir og valdatengsl mótast sem skilgreindu hvaða fólk gat átt saman um slík mál og í því höfðu Íslendingar spyrt sig rækilega saman við Norðmenn allt frá 10. öld ef ekki fyrr.

Orri Vésteinsson er fæddur 1967 og lærði sagnfræði við Háskóla Íslands og sagnfræði og fornleifafræði við University College London þaðan sem hann lauk doktorsprófi 1996. Hann hefur kennt fornleifafræði við Háskóla Íslands frá 2002. Rannsóknir hans snúa m.a. að íslenskri samfélagsgerð á miðöldum, landnámi, byggðaskipan og mótun samfélagsstofnana.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Paul Acker

Waterways in Icelandic Ballads

Þriðjudaginn 20. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Paul Acker

In a recent collection edited by Anne Scott and Cynthia Kosso, the contributors comment on the multiform uses of water in antique and medieval literature. It is not difficult to imagine many of these: waterways as transportation, as supplies of drinking water, as media for bathing. To cite a comparable instance, in the Swedish ballad „Tore’s Daughters,“ some young women are killed and then springs bubble up from beneath their severed heads. Tore is thus moved to consecrate a church on the spot; some may recognize this narrative as basis for Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 film Virgin Spring. The connection between holiness and a clean source of water, whether a spring or a well, is common enough in medieval saintly tales. The Icelandic version of this ballad, however, there is no spring; rather a light is seen over the daughters’ shallow grave. Water seems to be reserved for other uses in Icelandic ballads, mainly as a deadly place where drownings, accidental and homicidal, occur in proportion to the ballads’ other main theme, human relationships of love, whether marital and premarital, illicit or coerced. In this talk I will examine such instances in „The Ballad of Gauti and Magnhild“ (an analogue for the Old English poem Deor), in which a woman drowns when a bridge collapses. despite its being made (so the ballad says) of iron; „The Ballad of the Harp“ (with a close analogues in the Scottish ballad „Twa Sisters“), in which an envious sister pushes her fair sibling into the sea; „Elen’s Song,“ where a creature of the deep tries to abduct the resourceful heroine; Olaf Lilyrose, where the ocean is never quite reached as a destination and „Dialogue between a Mother and Son,“ where the drowning motif sneaks in proverbially at the end. Along the way I will comment on bridges in Old Norse literature and on the relevance of ecocritism for this topic.

Paul Acker is a Professor of English at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he teaches Old English and Old Icelandic. He earned his Ph.D. from Brown University and published a version of his dissertation as Revising Oral Theory in 1998. He researched in Iceland on a Fulbright Grant in 1980 and again in 1986, when he helped edit the Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia (1993) with Phillip Pulsiano and Kirsten Wolf. He contributed two saga translations to The Complete Sagas of Icelanders (1997) and co-edited with Carolyne Larrington two collections of essays on The Poetic Edda (2002 and 2013). He is completing a book on dragons, including Icelandic dragons, for Harvard University Press, and he is currently researching a book on Icelandic ballads, with translations into English.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle

The Secrets of Wikked Wyves

Sex and Authority in the Late Middle Ages

Fimmtudaginn 15. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle

In this paper, I compare Geoffrey Chaucer’s treatment of the Wife of Bath to late medieval conduct literature and the popular „Secrets of Women“ medical treatise, revealing a satirical textual milieu in which aggressive female characters, seeking sovereignty over men, perform their unique style of womanly wisdom before a male audience. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer created an ostensibly feminine character in the Wife of Bath whose prologue is at least as much about the knowledge of sex—and controlling men through sex—as it is about marriage, as is well known. But in this paper, I show that Chaucer is drawing on the manipulation of the „secrets of women“ in other contemporary literature to comment upon the pervasive anxiety about the gendered question of authority in medieval society. The „Secrets of Women“ treatise, for example, is a misogynistic masculine textual tradition that appropriated the Trotula, a collection of gynecological lore attributed to a female twelfth-century healer, which had a profound impact on the development of women’s medicine in the high Middle Ages. The „Secrets of Women,“ however, repressed knowledge of women’s medicine from the Trotula to focus solely on issues of sex and reproduction; therefore, the female sexuality once studied for the alleviation of women’s ailments was arrogated to a voyeuristic masculine gaze, to satisfy men’s curiosity and control over women. To control women’s secrets in this literary milieu, especially the secrets of their sexuality, created a new economy of exchange between men that could encompass the mystery of women’s natures as well as their physical bodies. Furthermore, these „Secrets of Women“ also found expression in fourteenth-century satires of womanly wisdom, such as conduct poems and collections of prosaic knowledge. In these works, the voice is ostensibly feminine but the framing masculine narrative suggests the superiority of men because of their ability to control the feminine through their mastery of the written word, like Chaucer’s invention of the Wife of Bath. My research opens a new area of inquiry into the medieval perceptions and representations of knowledge and authority, particularly within the realm of medieval female experience, which broadens our understanding of developing gender dynamics and their legacy to subsequent generations of women.

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle is an Associate Professor and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Northern Iowa. She earned a PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of Connecticut in 2008. Her recent work examines the development of „womanly wisdom“ in medieval England.

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Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Frida Espolin Norstein

Viking women and oval brooches

Expressing female identities in life and death

Þriðjudaginn 13. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Frida Espolin Norstein

Oval brooches are found all over the Viking world, to such an extent that they are seen as the most common form of female jewellery in the Viking Age. They are often seen as the clearest indication of female Viking burial. This is also the case in the British Isles and Iceland, where their presence suggest the presence of Viking women, many presumably migrants from Scandinavia. A thorough study of the oval brooches found in the western Viking settlements indicate that they were not made there, nor do they seem to be imported for sale. The differences we see in types, variations, and quality would suggest that they arrived in the west with women from Scandinavia. This is further supported by the fact that many of them have signs of wear and repair. This demonstrates that they had been in use for a relatively long time before ending up in the graves.

Using examples from Iceland, Scotland, and Ireland this lecture will focus on how these brooches were used, and what this could tell us about women in these areas. Through an examination of use-wear, there will be a discussion of how they were used in life, but also of the role they might have played in funerary rites. I will argue that these brooches, in addition to signifying the presence of Scandinavian women, would have been important for creating and communicating Scandinavian female identities in the overseas settlements.

Frida Espolin Norstein is a PhD candidate in archaeology at Gothenburg University. She has previously studied at the University of York and the University of Oslo. Her work is mainly concerned with Viking burial in the British Isles and Iceland, in particular female burial.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Þórdís Edda Jóhannesdóttir

Sagnaskemmtun á sextándu öld

Handritið AM 510 4to í bókmenntasögulegu samhengi

Fimmtudaginn 8. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Þórdís Edda Jóhannesdóttir

AM 510 4to er sagnahandrit frá miðri 16. öld og eitt fárra íslenskra skinnhandrita sem vitað er hverjir skrifuðu. Uppruni þess er rakinn til prestsins Ara Jónssonar í Súgandafirði og sona hans, Tómasar og Jóns. Fleiri handrit hafa varðveist sem má rekja til þeirra, meðal annars rímnahandritið AM 604 4to. AM 510 geymir átta sögur en þær eru: Víglundar saga, Bósa saga, Jarlmanns saga og Hermanns, Þorsteins þáttur bæjarmagns, Jómsvíkinga saga, Finnboga saga ramma, Drauma-Jóns saga og Friðþjófs saga frækna. Samsetning handritsins er ekki óvenjuleg fyrir sagnahandrit frá síðmiðöldum en rannsóknir á uppskriftum og miðlun sagna frá þessum tíma eru enn nokkuð skammt á veg komnar. Þegar sögur hafa varðveist í eldri handritum en frá síðmiðöldum beinist athyglin jafnan þangað og yngri uppskriftir njóta síður hylli. Af þessum sökum er þekking á bókmenntaumhverfi þrettándu og fjórtándu aldar meiri en fimmtándu og sextándu aldar. Ef handrit eins og AM 510 4to er kannað í heild í því tilliti að varpa ljósi á umhverfi skrifara og njótendur sagnanna getur það aukið skilning á bókmenntamenningu sextándu aldar.

Sögunum í AM 510 4to mætti öllum lýsa sem skemmtisögum fremur en sögum með sagnfræðilegt heimildargildi. Sumar þeirra eiga það einnig sameiginlegt að storka hefðbundinni flokkun íslenskra miðaldabókmennta, það er að segja, þær falla illa að flokkum eins og Íslendingasögum, fornaldarsögum, riddarasögum o.s.frv. Í erindinu verður sjónum beint að því hvernig handrit sem varðveitir einmitt þessar sögur getur gefið innsýn í heim sagnaskemmtunar á sextándu öld og mögulega aukið þekkingu okkar á bókmenntasögu síðmiðalda og áhuga sextándu aldar manna á fornsögum. Handritið geymir auk þess athyglisverðar spássíugreinar sem geta brugðið enn frekari birtu á hugðarefni og áhugamál skrifaranna.

Þórdís Edda Jóhannesdóttir er nýdoktor á handritasviði Stofnunar Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum og stundakennari við Háskóla Íslands. Hún lauk doktorsprófi í íslenskum bókmenntum við Háskóla Íslands 2016. Rannsóknir hennar beinast einkum að íslenskum miðaldabókmenntum, viðtökum þeirra og bókmenntasögulegu samhengi.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Tsukusu Jinn Itó

Japanese Reception of Old Norse Mythology

The appreciation of Norse myths in the Far East

Þriðjudaginn 6. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Tsukusu Jinn Itó

This talk will present the reception studies that our research group is now conducting on Old Norse Myth and Manga. The project is funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. When Japan opened its doors to the world after more than two centuries of national seclusion, Christian Western civilization was introduced and promoted in Japanese cities. Old Germanic mythology, introduced by the nineteenth-century romanticism, was also advanced through the reading and translating of German literature, as well as through the Wagnerian boom in the Meiji period at the turn of the century (circa 1900).

Although a Japanese translation of the Poetic Edda was not published until 1933, students of German philology and literature had enjoyed lectures on medieval as well as modern Scandinavian literature already before 1930. One of the products of this was a Japanese retelling of Old Norse myths by a scholar of English literature. Towards the end of the Second World War, a prominent professor of German philology was killed in the Blitz on Tokyo in 1940. This might have brought this line of study to an end in Japan but sprouts from this tradition survived the war to bloom in various places.

The poet Shizuka Yamamuro (1906–2000), who presided over a literary circle of Modern literature since 1946, was an independent scholar who introduced various Scandinavian literary works, including not only Eddas and Sagas, but also the works of Jens Peter Jacobsen, H.C. Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Sigrid Undset, Jón Sveinsson (Nonni), Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Tove Jansson, Astrid Lindgren, Selma Lagerlöf, and others. His works were followed by two scholars of German, Kenji Matsutani and Yukio Taniguchi.

In 1990, Yukio Taniguchi was awarded the Icelandic Order of the Falcon (Hin íslenska fálkaorða) for his academic contribution. Kenji Matsutani inspired the manga artist Ishinomori Shōtarō to create Cyborg Zero-Zero-Nine (1976) about which Jón Karl Helgason wrote that the echo of Ragnarök in the story reveals ‘the critical view of weapons and warfare’ that the Japanese people have ideologically held since the end of the War. Today, manga artists make use of the motifs of Old Norse myth more liberally. Some of them might well reflect the young boys’ bellicose disposition as a commercial strategy.

Tsukusu Jinn Itó is a professor of Medieval English and Scandinavian Philology at Shinshū University. He studied English literature and philology in Tokyo and Icelandic and medieval Icelandic literature at the University of Iceland in 1991-1992.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Terry Gunnell

Opening the Gates of Valhöll

Performance Studies and Old Nordic Poetry with a Focus on “What’s Going On” in Eiríksmál and Hákonarmál

Fimmtudaginn 1. mars 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Terry Gunnell

This lecture will start by giving a brief introduction to why one should consider taking the performative approach to Eddic and skaldic poetry (in other words, considering these works on the basis of sound and vision, movement, space, time and performative context, their associations with ritual/entertainment, their interaction with the expectations and cultural memories of their audiences, their potential interaction with their surroundings, and not least the transformative effects that they can have on these surroundings). Particular reference will be made here to the work and approaches of Richard Schechner and John Miles Foley. The second part of the lecture will feature a case study of the form and performative aspects of Eiriksmál and Hákonarmál, two dialogic works which lie somewhere between the Eddic and skaldic forms, noting the ways in which the performative approach opens a potentially new understanding of the way these poems might have originally been intended to work.

Terry Gunnell is Professor of Folkloristics at the University of Iceland. His research focuses on questions of performance, ritual, belief, myth, and legend. He is author of The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia (1995), and joint editor of The Nordic Apocalypse (2013); and Málarinn og menningarsköpun (2017).

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir

Emotion and Cultural Identities in the North

Old Norse Literature in a European Context

Fimmtudaginn 15. febrúar 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir

The Norse literary tradition is well known for its objective narrative style and an apparent lack of interest in the emotions of its characters. The seemingly laconic mode of portraying emotions in the Icelandic sagas — when compared with continental romance, for instance — does, however, not negate the presence of underlying emotion. Many of the sagas are in fact no less emotionally laden than the romances. This difference suggests that the emotive force of a text does not necessarily rely on emotion words or gestures (noticeably absent in sagas, but abundant in romances), but rather on the emotional signifiers with which the reader engages and to which he responds.

This lecture will focus on the way in which cross-cultural literary exchange partakes in the formation of emotive literary identities and mentalities in the North in the Middle Ages. In particular, it will explore how this complex interplay of transnational textual movement and regional identity formation reveals the role of cultural exchange and cultural resistance in the formation of literary identities and mentalities and the function emotive scripts have in actualising such cultural identities. The suggested term ‘emotive script’ is intended to encompass the literary staging of behavioural codes. The talk will explore how the various texts stage such codes.

The lecture will touch upon examples from the saga literature, including the better known sagas Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar and Brennu-Njáls saga, the translated romances as well as some Eddic poems to consider how emotions are conveyed in Old Norse literature.

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Iceland. Her most recent monograph, Emotion in Old Norse Literature: Translations, Voices, Contexts was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2017. She has published widely on literary emotion, cultural transmission, Arthurian literature and medieval romance.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Árni Heimir Ingólfsson

Kirkjusöngur á mótum tveggja tíma

Hvað var sungið í íslenskum kirkjum um miðja 16. öld?

Fimmtudaginn 8. febrúar 2018 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Árni Heimir Ingólfsson

Fátt er vitað um kirkjusöng á Íslandi frá því að lútherskur siður var lögfestur og þar til sálmabók (1589) og grallari (1594) Guðbrands Þorlákssonar komu út á prenti. Heimildir gefa í skyn að nokkur tvídrægni hafi verið í kirkjusöngnum um skeið, enda áttu biskupar örðugt með að koma sér saman um tónlist og helgisiði. Ein merk heimild um kirkjusöng á þessu millibilsskeiði er handrit Gísla Jónssonar Skálholtsbiskups (NKS 138 4to), sem Arngrímur Jónsson og fleiri hafa rannsakað. Það virðist geyma eins konar forskrift að helgihaldi með nótum og er varðveitt í Konungsbókhlöðu í Kaupmannahöfn. Handritið komst aldrei á prent og er líklega andstöðu Guðbrands þar um að kenna, enda beið Guðbrandur með að gefa út nokkur fyrirmæli um kirkjusöng þar til eftir andlát Gísla árið 1587.

Þó hafa fleiri heimildir varðveist sem bregða ljósi á kirkjusöng á Íslandi á fyrstu áratugum eftir siðaskipti. Brot úr tveimur íslenskum söngbókum frá því um eða upp úr 1550 hafa varðveist á Konunglega bókasafninu í Stokkhólmi og hafa þau að geyma gregorska söngva við íslenska texta. Handritin eru merk heimild um tilraun til að laga hinn forna söng að nýjum sið. Þótt aðeins hafi varðveist tvö blöð úr hvorri bók sést hér glitta í stórhuga tilraun, útfærða af kunnáttusemi, sem miðaði að því að snúa efni hins kaþólska helgihalds á íslenskt mál fremur en að innleiða nýja kirkjusöngva Lúthers. Blöðin hafa enga athygli hlotið fram til þessa og virðist sem fræðimönnum á sviði tónlistar- og kirkjusögu hafi ekki verið kunnugt um tilvist þeirra. Þessi brot bregða ljósi á það sem nefnt hefur verið „handbókarlausa tímabilið“ í árdaga lútherskunnar á Íslandi, þ.e. á árunum frá 1541–1555. Þau sýna að einhver fyrirmæli um gregorskan messu- og tíðasöng, við söngtexta á íslensku auk bænalestra, voru skrifuð upp í handritum og þeim væntanlega fylgt við messuhald í kirkjum þótt ekki kæmust þau á prent. Í fyrirlestrinum verður gerð grein fyrir þessum brotum hvoru fyrir sig, efni þeirra og hugsanlegum uppruna.

Árni Heimir Ingólfsson nam tónlistarfræði við Harvard-háskóla og lauk þaðan doktorsprófi 2003. Hann hefur einkum fengist við rannsóknir á íslenskri tónlist, bæði í handritum fyrri alda og tónlist 20. aldar, einkum tónlist Jóns Leifs. Árni Heimir er listrænn ráðgjafi Sinfóníuhljómsveitar Íslands.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opinn.