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Thread: Icelandic/norse sagas

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Icelandic/norse sagas

    I'm planning on doing my masters paper on some kind of aspect in the Icelandic sagas and was considering using either new historicism or an archetypal analysis. What do you'll think? Do you think I could mix a few theories?? I was also considering looking at the role of women in the sagas from a new historicist point of view. Well basically I'm really not sure how to approach it. So even minimal suggestions would be really helpful.

    'A new historicist reading of the archetypes created with regard to women in icelandic sagas'
    Do you think I could use that...im sure I may not be able to or does it make no sense at all?? What do you'll think

  2. #2
    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    Well, an archetypal analysis of women in the Icelandic sagas would certainly work. A new historicist approach would be, IMO, a bit harder, but certainly not impossible. (But I have no idea how you'd combine the two.) Could you give an example of a new historicist argument you would make?

    And which Icelandic sagas are you using?
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  3. #3
    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    You should not be thinking of which theoretical approach you want to use first. This is putting the cart before the horse. Rather than thinking in terms of doing an "archetypal" project or a "new historicist" project, think instead about what it is you want to say, what the major questions you want to explore are and what hypotheses you have that you want to sound out. Write out an initial paragraph (or more) about your thesis in plain, non-theoretical language. Then and only then should you think about what methodology or combination of methodologies makes sense and will be most productive for your project. Theoretical and methodological schools of thought are tools not ends.

    You should be thinking of your project as an exploration of certain questions related to Icelandic Sagas, not as an example of one school of thought or another. Think to yourself why you would use, for example, a new historicist approach. How would that help you with the goals of your project? How would it hinder you? What part of the methodology is useful for what you want to say and what part is not? Where do you agree with new historicist critics you've read and want to build on their work and where do you disagree and want to try something different? Has this approach been applied to the genre or period of literature you're working in? If not, how is applying that approach going to help you to provide the insights you want to give in your thesis? If you can't think of any reason that a particular school of thought is useful for what you want to say then don't include it. If you only find some aspects of that approach useful and find aspects of another approach useful as well then certainly combine them
    Last edited by Petrarch's Love; 01-14-2011 at 01:00 PM.

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  4. #4
    Come to think of it now...that makes no sense at all. Thanks for the input.
    Well I was considering taking up the Laxdæla saga. The university I go to expects us to use a contemporary theory or a gendered analysis. So I'm definitely ruling out an archetypal analysis of women and was considering doing just a gendered analysis or applying a new historicist analysis. I'm quite keen on applying a some aspect of new historicism though I'm not sure how to go about with it. It would be excellent if I could take up a new historicist analysis discussing the role of women in the saga. However, I'm not sure how to go about with it.

  5. #5
    The history behind the Icelandic sagas is whats fascinating me the most and how it is interconnected with the other sagas. Plus, significant amount of archeological work does prove that the sagas could be quite accurate.....the historic part is whats capturing my imagination more than anything else honestly

  6. #6
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThePseudonym View Post
    The history behind the Icelandic sagas is whats fascinating me the most and how it is interconnected with the other sagas. Plus, significant amount of archeological work does prove that the sagas could be quite accurate.....the historic part is whats capturing my imagination more than anything else honestly
    Just be a little careful when it comes to relying on archeological materials - there is not a huge amount, as far as Iceland is concerned. And although the sagas are historical documents, we have to bear in mind that their primary purpose is entertainment rather than historical accuracy, and that mostly composed 150-200 years after the events they describe. A lot of the sagas disagree on various historical events.

    It's a shame that your institution requires you to use an '-ism' - I generally dislike using someone else's framework. Petrarch's Love is entirely right - think about what you want to say, and then apply suitable theories to it. My personal approach to saga literature is narratological (with an emphasis on folkloristics), but I came to that as a result of my own research, and my work bears the absolute stamp of my own personality.

    My Masters paper was on a particular kind of female figure in saga literature. The concept of gender is one of the most interesting facets of the corpus, but do bear in mind there's been a lot of work done on it already.

    I don't know how much reading you've done, but if you like I could suggest some helpful volumes?
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  7. #7
    Well right now I am still in the process of considering a few of my options. And yes any suggestion right now would be the most helpful.

  8. #8
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Some excellent books to get you started would be Judith Jesch's Women in the Viking Age (1991) and Jenny Jochens' Women in Old Norse Society (1995) and Old Norse Images of Women (1996).

    Beyond that, there's Bjorn Bandlien's (translated by Betsy van der Hoek) Strategies of Passion (2005), Sarah M. Anderson and Karen Swenson's (eds) Cold Counsel (2002), and Ursula Dronke's The Role of Sexual Theme's in Njáls saga (1981). Finally, if memory serves, there's also a useful section in Vésteinn Ólason's (translated by Andrew Wawn) Dialogues with the Viking Age (1998).

    My particular area is myth, and if you decide to work with female archetypes it would be helpful to look at Old Norse mythical women. For that, I'd have a glance at Rudolf Simek and Wilhelm Heizmann's (eds) Mythological Women: Studies in Memory of Lotte Motz (2002) and Margaret Clunies Ross' Prolonged Echoes (1994).

    Finally, if you're looking for sagas to compare with Laxdæla saga, then check out Theodore Andersson's The Icelandic Family Saga: An Analytic Reading (1967) - a little dated perhaps (though Ted is very much still an active scholar), but it contains concise summaries of the story lines of many sagas.

    That should be more than enough to start with, and these are the main volumes that come to me off the top of my head. Once you have a better idea of the direction you are thinking of going, I may be able to point you in the direction of a few more useful volumes.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  9. #9
    Thank you so much...this is very helpful. Time to start reading

  10. #10
    I could you please provide me a bit of insight about how exactly I could go ahead with working on the archetypes. I have a few ideas but they seem vague. I can correspond a few characters in the saga to Nordic mythology.

  11. #11
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThePseudonym View Post
    I could you please provide me a bit of insight about how exactly I could go ahead with working on the archetypes. I have a few ideas but they seem vague. I can correspond a few characters in the saga to Nordic mythology.
    I wonder whether 'archetype' is quite the right word. I prefer the term 'stock character' - and it is certainly true that saga literature is full of them, and many of them are drawn from mythology.

    In terms of insights, I can't really help a huge amount - the books I've already suggested talk about the female 'type'. For example, Jochens (1996) argues that all women in saga literature fall into four basic categories - something that I found a bit limiting, and which thus shaped many of the ideas that underlay my own thesis. I decided, after reading Jochens' work, and the works of others, that a particular female stock character had been overlooked, so my dissertation became an investigation of this figure, establishing a defintion for her and demonstrating her narratological and psychological impact - and all that was born out of my initial dissatisfaction with Jenny Jochens.

    All ideas start out vague, particularly when approaching a large topic, but you'll find they come into focus after a bit of study. No matter how vague they are, feel free to run them past me.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Lokasenna View Post
    It's a shame that your institution requires you to use an '-ism'
    I was gonna say. You'll gut the soul of the stories that way, I know what today's literature classes are like. Living in Sweden I have read a lot of stories from the Viking age and about Nordic Mythology; in my opinion most lit profs shouldn't be allowed anywhere near them. Well, at least not until they have shown they can catch a fish, but without writing a paper on how fishing is a means for upholding the imperialism inherent in the humano-centric worldview.

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