Archive for July, 2013

Dr of Viking StudiesI got interviewed by the friendly and thoroughly awesome people over at Paper Tape Magazine!!!! Whoohoo!  I believe this is my first interview (although I was supposed to be interviewed by one of our student tutors when I was a visiting professor at Gustavus… and I totally forgot about it). I hope I didn’t get too rambling for them–wrote my answers during a pretty stressful bit of the end of Spring semester. Anyway, check the interview out yourself and then check out a bunch of their other stories, essays, artwork, reviews, etc. I haven’t had time to read more than a few things, but I think you can take this original take on the Tooth Fairy, and this short essay on a pilgrimage to the Jewish quarter in Prague as representative of the magazine, and certainly very enjoyable in their own right. Looking forward to seeing this magazine keep growing in the future!

A quick edit for the interview which I forgot to send their way–I say “saga authors” in my answer to one of the questions, but of course, we can’t speak of an “author” in the same way we are accustomed to in our “print culture.” The exact nature of the balance between oral sources, other literary sources, and the personal contribution of any one (or several) personalities in the creation of any particular saga is an open question–unfortunately, I seem to have a habit of defaulting to the term “author” when I’m speaking off-hand…

Oh, and the interview was a couple months back, so a bit out of date re: my art–I’ve been able to get a couple more pictures up on DA now, and while I’ve put off my “saga scenes” idea, I do seem to have the beginnings of a series of Tomte/Fox pictures, as I mention in this post. Will hopefully come back to that again soon.

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Snorra Edda

The medieval copies of the Eddas are generally not illustrated (after all, shouldn’t a good Christian save the expensive pictures for the Bible or Kingly exploits?)–but here we have the frame of Gylfaginning (which, incidentally, highlights the nature of the myths recounted as “lies,” in case the medieval audience were to be tempted from orthodoxy), in the Codex Upsaliensis manuscript (c. 1300, if I remember correctly). I like this illustration as an example of the problems of Christian remembering of Pagan material in Medieval Iceland.

I recently had my review of Mikhael Gronas’ Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory published in Cultural Analysis, a journal on culture and folklore (in a fairly broad sense), covering all sorts of “expressive and everyday culture” (I’m a big fan of interdisciplinary efforts like this, and even more a fan of the fact that the journal is available for free online, and is supplied for free in print form to academic institutions–those of us who write the material for these journals don’t make any money, after all…)  You can find the review here, but you will have to scroll down a bit, as all the book reviews are on the same page (a PDF of the page can be downloaded here). The book takes Russian literature as its case-in-point for its larger theoretical argument, so I got to enjoy learning a bit about Russian lit and history while working through the theoretical material (the latter being my main interest in the book).

Cultural Memory‘s relevance as a theoretical framework for the study of Old Norse literature and Religion has been my main research interest (though not my only one) since filing my dissertation (if you want something more than the wikipedia explanation, check out the introduction to this book; I’ve also found this book to be an easy to read exercise in Cultural Memory studies). I mostly take the term Cultural Memory from the work of Jan and Aleida Assmann (especially this book), where it is roughly equated with concepts such as Derrida’s Archive, among others, and in particular is associated with the sort of collective remembering made possible by the technology of literacy, where, in contrast to oral cultures, the “out of the way” and peripheral (like, say, pagan myths in Christian society) may still be preserved (but yes, things are still a bit more complicated with the Old Norse myths, given that we have an apparent gap of 200+ years after the conversion before the pagan material was written down). I gave a paper with some of my thoughts on the relevance of Cultural Memory theory for the study of Old Norse lit (esp. the mythology) at the 2012 conference of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies, but there has been plenty of work by other (senior) scholars on related topics, so if you are interested in reading up on the topic (I still have some more reading to do myself), here are some of the works I referenced in my paper (or have found otherwise pertinent to my research–this is just a selection though, so please don’t treat it as a comprehensive bibliography!):

Assmann, Jan and John Czaplicka 1995: “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity.” New German Critique 65, 125-133.

Assmann, Jan 2006: Religion and Cultural Memory. Trans. Rodney Livingstone. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bauman, Richard and Charles Briggs 1990: “Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life.” Annual Review of Anthropology 19, 59-88.

Byock, Jesse 2004: “Social Memory and the Sagas: The Case of ‘Egils Saga.'” Scandinavian Studies 76:3, 299-316.

Derrida, Jacques 1998: Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Trans. Eric Prenowitz. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Fortier, Ted and Jeanette Rodríguez 2007: Cultural memory: Resistance, Faith, and Identity. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Gísli Sigurðsson 2004: The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition: A Discourse on Method. Trans. Nicholas Jones. Publications of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature no. 2. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

Glauser, Jürg 2000: “Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendinga sögur) and þættir as the literary representation of a new social space.” Old Icelandic Literature and Society. Ed. Margaret Clunies Ross. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 42. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 203-20.

Glauser, Jürg 2007: “The Speaking Bodies of Saga Texts.” Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World. Ed. Judy Quinn, Kate Heslop, and Tarrin Wills. Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe vol. 18. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 13-26.

Gronas, Mikhail 2010: Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory: Russian Literary Mnemonics. New York: Routledge.

Halbwachs, Maurice 1992: On Collective Memory. New York: Harper.

Hastrup, Kirsten 1985: Culture and History in Medieval Iceland: An anthropological analysis of structure and change. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hastrup, Kirsten 1990: Island of Anthropology: Studies in past and present Iceland. Viborg: Odense University Press.

Hastrup, Kirsten 2009: “Northern Barbarians: Icelandic Canons of Civilization.” Gripla 20, 109-136.

Hermann, Pernille 2010: “Founding Narratives and the Representation of Memory in Saga Literature.” ARV Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 66, 69-87.

Jesch, Judith 2008: “Myth and Cultural Memory in the Viking Diaspora.” Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 4, 221-226.

Kaplan, Merrill 2000: “Prefiguration and the Writing of History in ‘Þáttr Þiðranda ok Þórhalls.'” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 99:3, 379-394.

McKinnell, John 2007: “Why Did Christians Continue to Find Pagan Myths Useful?” Reflections on Old Norse Myths Ed. Pernille Hermann, Jens Peter Schjødt, and Rasmus Tranum Kristensen. Studies in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 1, 33-52.

Torfi Tulinius 2009: “The Self as Other: Iceland and the Culture of Southern Europe in the Middle Ages.” Gripla 20, 199-216.

Viðar Pálsson 2008: “Pagan Mythology in Christian Society.” Gripla 19, 123-159.

Ward, Elisabeth 2012: “Nested Narrative:Þórðar Saga Hreðu and Material Engagement.” UC Berkeley (dissertation)

Wellendorf, Jonas 2010: “The Interplay of Pagan and Christian Traditions in Icelandic Settlement Myths.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 109:1, 1-21.

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