Love and Emotions in Old Norse Literature
2nd Symposium of the Project “Formulae in Icelandic Saga Literature”
Tartu, 28-29 January, 2022
Love and emotions did for a long time belong to the periphery of Old Norse scholarship. The native sagas were claimed to be almost programmatically uninterested in emotional depiction, and honor, not love, was claimed to be the core of erotically related episodes. In Eddic poetry, the more emotional poems were described as late pastiches, outside the main focus on the alleged genuine Old Norse poems and less interesting for research. Skaldic love stanzas were often rejected as late forgeries. The riddarasögur, with an abundance of emotional depiction and love stories were, as translations and imitations, not regarded as genuine Norse literature and frequently seen as signs of a degeneration of the taste in Old Norse literature. However, things changed. In the 1990s a new interest evolved around the Eddic elegies, resulting in extensive studies, fruitful debates and new interpretations. During the first decades of the present millennium there was a remarkable new interest in the role and depiction of love in Old Norse, resulting in several monographs. Today, love and emotions in Old Norse literature constitute an active field of research. Old prejudices concerning dating, taste, originality etc. are abandoned. New perspectives are used, and new conclusions are reached. The research has, however, been scattered and scholars have often worked on similar topics without knowledge of each other.
The present symposium is devoted to the theme of love and the depiction of emotions in Old Norse literature. All Old Norse genres will be in focus, the courtly translations as well as the native sagas and poems. Both the role of love and the description of it will be discussed. At the symposium, we will share our knowledge, present and discuss our ongoing research, test new perspectives, develop new methods and make new contacts for future collaboration.
Alison Finlay, University of London
Sif Ríkharðsdóttir, University of Iceland
Klaus Johan Myrvoll, University of Stavanger
Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir, University of Cambridge
All researchers (including PhD students) who are interested in presenting their ideas or research results connected to these or similar topics are encouraged submit proposals for 20-minute paper presentations (followed by 10 minutes of discussion). The venue of the symposium will be University of Tartu, Department of Scandinavian Studies.
Please send short abstracts by 1 November 2021 to daniel.savborg [ät] ut.ee.
We strongly believe in scholarly meetings in-person. Coffee breaks and free time at conferences usually offer the most important occasions for exchange of ideas, constructive debates, establishing of new contacts and planning of cooperation. We therefore plan to hold the symposium in-person. If, however, the corona situation makes it necessary, we will hold the symposium online.
The symposium especially intends to focus on the following sub-topics:
- Formulae, narrative patterns, and stock motifs in erotic episodes and depiction of emotions in Old Norse literature. The aim is to get a better understanding of the morphology of love and emotions in Old Norse. It is necessary to decode the meaning of more or less opaque phrases and motifs to interpret possibly emotionally charged episodes. Distinguishing characteristics in the different genres (poetry vs. prose, native vs. translated works etc.) will be searched for.
- Native vs. foreign in Old Norse depiction of love and emotions. Where and to what degree is there foreign influence on love depiction in the native Old Norse genres and native influence on love depiction in the translated Norse literature?
- The role and meaning of love in Old Norse literature and society. How important is the theme of love in an Old Norse work as a whole? What role does it play for the plot and for the behavior of the characters? What are the differences between different genres? How should the Old Norse concept of love be described? What meaning did love have for people in real life in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia?
- Non-fictional sources for shedding light on love in Old Norse literature. In what ways might sources such as laws, charms, pictures, or later recorded folklore be used for the understanding of the role and meaning of love and eroticism in Old Norse literature and culture?