You are here

Orality and Literacy in Pre-Christian Scandinavia: Evaluating Sources for the Study of Religion

Date and Time: 
Monday, February 1, 2016. 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Humanities Center Board Room
Workshop: 
Oral Literature and Literate Orality
Meeting Description: 
About the speaker:
Professor Lindow’s research focuses on two areas. Within the Old Norse-Icelandic literary tradition, he is particularly interested in myth and religion and the texts and genres that reflect them. In his research on the folklore of northern Europe, Lindow has specialized in the stories of the rural countryside, from Greenland to Karelia. Common to his research in both areas is an attempt to understand how texts function, both internally and in their greater literary and cultural contexts, with the concept of “culture” understood broadly. His current major project, undertaken cooperatively with a number of international scholars, involves a multi-volume presentation of current thinking about pre-Christian religion of the North, using not only the textual evidence but also archaeological and comparative evidence. Lindow has taught as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Iceland and held a research appointment at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala.
 
Meeting description:
Nearly all the written sources about the pre-Christian religion of Scandinavia were recorded by medieval Christian scribes writing on vellum using the technology brought with the conversion to Christianity for writing Latin, the language of the Church. The time gap is significant: the conversion took place in the late tenth and early eleventh century CE, and the manuscripts are primarily from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. How can we evaluate the nature of the oral sources that were textualized by the scribes? The first section of the paper considers the manifest problems associated with common Germanic alliterative poetry (called ‘Eddic’ poetry in Scandinavia). The paper then turns to runic inscriptions, which indeed are written texts (and thus fixed) from the pagan period. One in particular, the inscription on the stone from Rök, Östergötland, Sweden, shows an amazing attempt at remedializing heroic legend and certainly relates to religion; it is, however, an outlier. The next section of the paper treats what scholars call ‘skaldic’ poetry and considers how the form may have fixed the texts. The concept of remedialization is important here, for some skaldic poetry is ekphrasis (images made into poetry), and the final section of the paper takes up the relationship of images and other artifacts and the poetic tradition.

This event has a pre-circulated paper. Please email sk2608@stanford.edu for a copy.

Workshops Calendar

S M T W T F S
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30