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Intro Seminar - Death, Revenge & Madness in Icelandic literature and culture Welcome to class # 4 ! -Finish Hrafninn -History and Culture and early literature.

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Presentation on theme: "Intro Seminar - Death, Revenge & Madness in Icelandic literature and culture Welcome to class # 4 ! -Finish Hrafninn -History and Culture and early literature."— Presentation transcript:

1 Intro Seminar - Death, Revenge & Madness in Icelandic literature and culture Welcome to class # 4 ! -Finish Hrafninn -History and Culture and early literature (compare the viking type Einar’s father, Egill) and the more complex figures -Women, the egging woman, -Why don’t we see any madness in medieval lit? -Bring up to present

2 Cultural development  Poems from a common Gmc. era:  Alliteration, common deities, common motifs  Natural references to lands with a different geography or vegetation from Iceland (Völuspá The Seeress’s Prophecy) - reindeer in the Sayings of the High One  The versions we have are probably from the 10th century (MS XIV) - but stories older 5-7c  Attila - historical figure  Poems from a common Gmc. era:  Alliteration, common deities, common motifs  Natural references to lands with a different geography or vegetation from Iceland (Völuspá The Seeress’s Prophecy) - reindeer in the Sayings of the High One  The versions we have are probably from the 10th century (MS XIV) - but stories older 5-7c  Attila - historical figure

3 The problem of sources  Historical writings in XII  Lándnámabók and Íslendingabók  Genealogies, church documents  Very concise, often based on oral accounts  Writing about the settlement over two centuries later  Historical writings in XII  Lándnámabók and Íslendingabók  Genealogies, church documents  Very concise, often based on oral accounts  Writing about the settlement over two centuries later 3

4 The Sagas  Sagas of Icelanders or Family Sagas - Prototypical novels…  Tales in prose, often extending 100s of pages, about the history of the people that settled in Iceland during the time of the Settlement ( )  Historical sources?  Written in XIII-XIV centuries  Sagas of Icelanders or Family Sagas - Prototypical novels…  Tales in prose, often extending 100s of pages, about the history of the people that settled in Iceland during the time of the Settlement ( )  Historical sources?  Written in XIII-XIV centuries Sagas online - 4

5 Literature as mirror of society  What can we glean from the sagas?  Mostly peace-loving society w/ obsession for laws (compensates lack of police)  Excessive desire of revenge is worthy of blame (cf. Hrafnkel’s saga - Einar’s father)  Death and Revenge can be literary topoi to arrange narrative (Byock’s view)  On the other hand, few resources in med. Ice. Easy to step on each other’s toes  What can we glean from the sagas?  Mostly peace-loving society w/ obsession for laws (compensates lack of police)  Excessive desire of revenge is worthy of blame (cf. Hrafnkel’s saga - Einar’s father)  Death and Revenge can be literary topoi to arrange narrative (Byock’s view)  On the other hand, few resources in med. Ice. Easy to step on each other’s toes 5

6 Death and Revenge from literature to society  The Viking type (Einar’s father in Hrafnkel´s s., Egill Skallagrímsson in Egil´s s.)  In a man, strength, courage, character important  Death is irrelevant - fame is all important  The wisecracks - despair for unworthy deaths (Egill)  Insists on revenge as the only honourable solution (Einar´s f.)  Can be a gifted poet (Egill - has feelings…) - just like Odin, god of warriors, thieves and poets.  Not the result of an agricultural society - still migration time (Gestur in Hrafninn for ex.)  The Viking type (Einar’s father in Hrafnkel´s s., Egill Skallagrímsson in Egil´s s.)  In a man, strength, courage, character important  Death is irrelevant - fame is all important  The wisecracks - despair for unworthy deaths (Egill)  Insists on revenge as the only honourable solution (Einar´s f.)  Can be a gifted poet (Egill - has feelings…) - just like Odin, god of warriors, thieves and poets.  Not the result of an agricultural society - still migration time (Gestur in Hrafninn for ex.) 6

7 Women´s image and role  The Viking type (Egging woman in Hrafnkel´s s., Gudrun in Laxdaela s. who incites her husband to kill her former fiance (after a slight…)  They had rights (inheritance, divorce) - how common in society though?  Never kills, gets a man to do it for her (see Þórdís, Gísli´s sister in The Outlaw who marries her dead husband´s brother to insure revenge)  The Viking type (Egging woman in Hrafnkel´s s., Gudrun in Laxdaela s. who incites her husband to kill her former fiance (after a slight…)  They had rights (inheritance, divorce) - how common in society though?  Never kills, gets a man to do it for her (see Þórdís, Gísli´s sister in The Outlaw who marries her dead husband´s brother to insure revenge) 6

8 Women´s image and role  Gmc topos: the impossible choice between blood ties (brothers) and acquired family (husbands) - Hilderbrandslied (father-son), Nibelungenlied, Völsunga s.,  The Outlaw, Hrafninn  Maybe had to do with inbreeding, incest etc.  She usually holds ties w/ Nature (but there are sorcerers too) - (Völuspá The Seeress’s Prophecy) - the healer, the midwife, the one who predicts the future  Gmc topos: the impossible choice between blood ties (brothers) and acquired family (husbands) - Hilderbrandslied (father-son), Nibelungenlied, Völsunga s.,  The Outlaw, Hrafninn  Maybe had to do with inbreeding, incest etc.  She usually holds ties w/ Nature (but there are sorcerers too) - (Völuspá The Seeress’s Prophecy) - the healer, the midwife, the one who predicts the future 8 Ctd.

9 Where is madness in the middle ages?  Surely it existed, but just like mental retardation was not considered a topic worth exploring (Ingjaldur´s fífl -lit. Ingjaldur´s fool- in Gísla saga~The Outlaw).  Hard to define at a time when there was no clear notion of what the mind was, much less of its ailments.  We start seeing characters that are considered/ could be mad in XVI century (Shakespeare)  Otherwise soothsayers, prophets (Joan of Arc?), mystics (Píslarsaga Jóns Magnússonar )  Surely it existed, but just like mental retardation was not considered a topic worth exploring (Ingjaldur´s fífl -lit. Ingjaldur´s fool- in Gísla saga~The Outlaw).  Hard to define at a time when there was no clear notion of what the mind was, much less of its ailments.  We start seeing characters that are considered/ could be mad in XVI century (Shakespeare)  Otherwise soothsayers, prophets (Joan of Arc?), mystics (Píslarsaga Jóns Magnússonar ) 9

10 More recent history - or 800 ys in a slide (or two)  XIII Age of the Sturlungs  1238 Battle of Örlygsstaðir (death of 50+, and Sighvatur Sturluson, brother of Snorri S.)  Civil war caused by very powerful clans  1264 Loss of independence to Norway  A century later Norway becomes part of Denmark by marriage  XIII Age of the Sturlungs  1238 Battle of Örlygsstaðir (death of 50+, and Sighvatur Sturluson, brother of Snorri S.)  Civil war caused by very powerful clans  1264 Loss of independence to Norway  A century later Norway becomes part of Denmark by marriage 10

11 The Dark Ages  XIV c. ‘lying tales’, decline of literature,  Loss of Greenlandic colonies  1300 Eruption of Hekla, loss of cattle, famine  1402 Black death - 1/3 population dies ( left?)  XV c. English century - commerce with Britain (Hansa league throughout MA)  1477 Christopher Columbus in Iceland  XIV c. ‘lying tales’, decline of literature,  Loss of Greenlandic colonies  1300 Eruption of Hekla, loss of cattle, famine  1402 Black death - 1/3 population dies ( left?)  XV c. English century - commerce with Britain (Hansa league throughout MA)  1477 Christopher Columbus in Iceland 11

12 The Dark Ages continue  1550 Reformation imposed by Denmark, Jón Arason last Catholic bishop beheaded with his 2 sons.  1602 Denmark imposes the Trade Monopoly (lifted only in 1854)  A number of disastrous eruptions from various volcanoes  XVIII Smallpox, other diseases and famine kill people  Lakagígar: dead - Relocation?  1550 Reformation imposed by Denmark, Jón Arason last Catholic bishop beheaded with his 2 sons.  1602 Denmark imposes the Trade Monopoly (lifted only in 1854)  A number of disastrous eruptions from various volcanoes  XVIII Smallpox, other diseases and famine kill people  Lakagígar: dead - Relocation? 12

13 Age of Independence  1800 Alþing dissolved  1801 new era of awakening national identity  1843 Alþing re-established as a consultative body  Jón Sigurðsson struggles for more autonomy  1874 New Constitution - Christian IX  1904 Home Rule  1911 First motor trawler arrives  1915 Women acquire the right to vote  1800 Alþing dissolved  1801 new era of awakening national identity  1843 Alþing re-established as a consultative body  Jón Sigurðsson struggles for more autonomy  1874 New Constitution - Christian IX  1904 Home Rule  1911 First motor trawler arrives  1915 Women acquire the right to vote 13

14 Blessed War  1940 Denmark occupied by Nazi Germany  1941 The US troops relieve the British  1944 Iceland independent  1945 troops leave - Ástandið  1949 Iceland is one of founding members of NATO  1951 Defence agreement between Iceland and US  1952 fishing limit extended to 4 miles  1955 Laxness wins Nobel Prize for Literature  miles Cod War with Britain - 3 ys of conflict  miles - second Cod War  1940 Denmark occupied by Nazi Germany  1941 The US troops relieve the British  1944 Iceland independent  1945 troops leave - Ástandið  1949 Iceland is one of founding members of NATO  1951 Defence agreement between Iceland and US  1952 fishing limit extended to 4 miles  1955 Laxness wins Nobel Prize for Literature  miles Cod War with Britain - 3 ys of conflict  miles - second Cod War

15 Recent history  1974 The last stretch of Ring Road completed  miles - Third Cod War  1980 Vigdís Finnbógadóttir president  1983 First women´s party % in parliament  1986 Reagan Gorbachev summit  1989 Pope´s visit - strong beer sold (after 81 ys)  1995 Avalanches in West Fjords kill 34 people  1998 Laxness dies  1974 The last stretch of Ring Road completed  miles - Third Cod War  1980 Vigdís Finnbógadóttir president  1983 First women´s party % in parliament  1986 Reagan Gorbachev summit  1989 Pope´s visit - strong beer sold (after 81 ys)  1995 Avalanches in West Fjords kill 34 people  1998 Laxness dies 15

16 Literature & Cinema  Traditional motifs, folk tales  Einar Benediktsson: Solveig í Miklabæ  Madness creeps into (mostly female) literature  Oppressive husband, persecution mania, loss of a child, metaphor for oppression? Actual disease? Or simply the fear of the other, the one who is different, maybe weak & sensitive (Angels of the Universe, Nói Albinoi)  Difference between social classes  Dichotomy between Reykjavík vs. countryside (Nói Albinoi, Seagull´s laughter) But the old motifs are not altogether lost….  Traditional motifs, folk tales  Einar Benediktsson: Solveig í Miklabæ  Madness creeps into (mostly female) literature  Oppressive husband, persecution mania, loss of a child, metaphor for oppression? Actual disease? Or simply the fear of the other, the one who is different, maybe weak & sensitive (Angels of the Universe, Nói Albinoi)  Difference between social classes  Dichotomy between Reykjavík vs. countryside (Nói Albinoi, Seagull´s laughter) But the old motifs are not altogether lost…. 16


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