Miðaldastofa Háskóla Íslands | University of Iceland Centre for Medieval Studies (2022)

Málþing til heiðurs Margaret Cormack

Laugardaginn 27. ágúst 2022 —Háskóla Íslands, Odda 101

11.00 – 11.15
Setning ráðstefnu

11.15 – 11.30
Some words of welcome and thanks

11.30 – 12.00
Did Icelandic authors of Latin hagiography draft their texts in Icelandic? The case of Gunnlaugr Leifsson’s Vita S. Johannis

12.00 – 12.30
Mary of Oignies in Medieval Iceland

12.30 – 13.30

13.30 – 14.00
Girl, Interrupted: Revision and Reduction of the Magdalen in Jón Þorsteinsson píslarvottur’s Iðrunardiktur

14.00 – 14.30
Hinn íslenski draumur (í þulum síðari alda)

14.30 – 15.00

15.00 – 15.30
The Aura of Vellum: Calfskin, Antiquity and Magic in Post-Paper Manuscript Production

15.30 – 16.00
„Þessa bók á Þuríður Þorleifsdóttir, því hún hefur erft hana eftir föður sinn“: Eigendasaga AM 657 a–b 4to

16.00 – 16.15
Heilagatún and other holy and unholy place-names / Heilagatún og önnur helg og vanhelg örnefni

16.15 – 17.15

Málþingið fer fram á íslensku og ensku og er öllum opið.


(Video) Sundrung og svik: Sturlungaöldin sem vopn í stjórnmálabaráttu okkar daga - Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Styrkt af Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum og Miðaldastofu Háskóla Íslands
Myndir: Heilög Margrét í Kaupmannahöfn, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, AM 429 12mo (1490-1510)

Erik Kwakkel

Ephemera from the Middle Ages

Fimmtudaginn 18. ágúst 2022 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

While medieval manuscripts were generally produced for posterity, not everything written down in the Middle Ages was intended to be kept forever. Some written text was regarded disposable and acted as a sort of short-term memory. Such ephemeral material makes for exciting research, because it shows a side of medieval life not witnessed in manuscripts or official documentary sources such as charters and account books. This lecture introduces three different kind of ephemeral artifact from medieval culture: scrap parchment with scholarly notes, paper slips with domestic messages sent within a household, and name tags worn by orphans. While highlighting the context in which these transitory objects were used, the lecture engages with their materiality, querying how the brevity of their lifespan is reflected in their physical features.

Erik Kwakkel is Director and Professor in the History of the Book at the School of Information (iSchool) at The University of British Columbia (UBC). His research interests are related to the design of medieval manuscripts, and he has published several monographs and edited volumes devoted the culture of the medieval book, including The European Book in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2018, co-edited with Rodney Thomson), Books Before Print (Arc Humanities Press, 2018), a textbook for undergraduate teaching, and Medicine at Monte Cassino (Brepols, 2019, co-authored with Francis Newton). In 2015, Kwakkel was appointed to the Comité International de Paléographie Latine (CIPL).

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.


Zrinka Stahuljak

Medieval Fixers: History, Politics, Literature

Fimmtudaginn 19. maí 2022 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Ever since the western involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria, the term “fixer” became commonplace. It designates almost exclusively men who perform a range of services for foreign journalists and armies. Acting as interpreters, local informants, guides, drivers, mediators, brokers, these men are intermediaries, enablers who posess multiple skillls and bodies of knowledge. Fixers existed already in the Middle Ages, in situations of multilingual encounter, such as crusades, pilgrimages, proselytization, trade, translation. Fixers are the invisible men and women of history, then as now. This talk aims to restore their presence in a productive conversation between the fixers of the past and of the present. To look at history, literature and politics through the lens of fixers changes our relationship to the world and how we structure it.

Zrinka Stahuljak is Director of the CMRS Center for Early Global Studies (CMRS-CEGS) and Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her most recent books are Les Fixeurs au Moyen Âge: Histoire et littérature connectées (Seuil 2021) and a forthcoming book Fixers: Agency, Translation, and Literature in the Middle Ages (UP Chicago).

Fyrirlesturinn er einnig hluti af Fimmta íslenska söguþinginu.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn

Dorottya Uhrin

The Spread of Saint Dorothy’s Cult in Central Europe and Scandinavia

A Comparative Analysis

Fimmtudaginn 31. mars, 2022, kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Saint Dorothy was a young virgin, who during the reign of Emperor Diocletian suffered martyrdom in Cappadocia in the late Antiquity. Her cult was highly popular in the fifteenth-century Central Europe and Scandinavia. She was, however, almost unknown a hundred years earlier. This phenomenon is not unique and not limited only to this particular saint and territory. The fourteenth century seems to be the period when the cults and legends of virgin martyrs were rediscovered in Europe. How did their cult re-emerge in these regions? Why did a late-Antique saint become popular in the late Middle Ages? How did her cult spread from Central Europe to North an East?

In my presentation, I will concentrate on how the general changes in society contributed to the birth of a special type of saints, the holy helper, and why did their cults become popular in the above-mentioned regions. By the fourteenth century, the network of parish churches has already been developed, thus the devotees had to find other ways to express their veneration. Thus, her cult’s traces mostly appear as altar dedications, mural paintings and legends. Beside the medieval vernacular German translation of the legends, there are Hungarian and Icelandic translation of her holy life. Thus, the presentation analyzes which circumstances contributed to the proliferation of the cult of virgin martyrs, especially to Saint Dorothy’s cult with interdisciplinary method. Historical, art historical and liturgical sources will help to reconstruct the birth and the spread of the cult.

I will argue, that besides the growing importance of women, the general changes in the cult of saints facilitated the spread of the cult of virgin martyrs. The growing importance of images and sermons contributed to the spread of the old saints’ cult, whose venerations were not connected to certain locations. Moreover, their intimate relationship with the Virgin Mary made them effective intercessors which also subsidized to their popularity.

(Video) Claiming the North / Tilkall til norðursins - panel 1

Dorottya Uhrin is an assistant lecturer at the Medieval History Department of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She graduated in history, religious history and Mongolian studies and earned a Ph.D. from the same university. Also, she has a master’s degree in medieval studies from Central European University. Her main research area is religiosity in medieval Central Europe.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn

Ben Allport

“To Explain the Present and Promote its Values”

Evolving Strategies of Elite Legitimisation in the Variants of the Frá Fornjóti Origin Myth

Fimmtudaginn 24. mars, 2022, kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

The origin myth Frá Fornjóti ok hans ættmönnum survives in two variants, Fundinn Noregr and Hversu Noregr byggðist, both of which are preserved in Flateyjarbók. Both variants describe the descent from a primordial being named Fornjótr to the siblings Nórr, Górr, and Gói and the brother’s quest to find their sister after she is abducted. Along the way, Nórr conquers the mainland of northwestern Scandinavia and creates the kingdom of Norway, which he bequeaths to his sons. Górr conquers Norway’s coastal islands, becoming a sækonungr ‘sea-king.’ Despite this shared narrative core, significant differences in detail between the two variants attest to their differing histories. Fundinn Noregr survives as the preface to Orkneyinga saga, and is thus dated to, at the latest, that saga’s second production phase in the 1220s or 30s. Hversu Noregr byggðist is attested much later, and in the form preserved in Flateyjarbók shows signs of extensive expansion in the fourteenth century.

Each stage and variant of the Frá Fornjóti myth introduces new themes and political dimensions into the tradition; Fundinn Noregr provides an origin for the jarls of Orkney, who are positioned as the descendants of Górr. The core of Hversu Noregr byggðist explores the dissemination of the regional dynasties of Norway and anticipates the kingdom’s supposed reunification by Haraldr hárfagri; the expansion phase emphasises the importance of female dynasts in connecting the primordial dynasty of Nórr to prominent Icelandic and Norwegian progenitors.

This talk outlines the history of the Frá Fornjóti tradition from the early thirteenth to late fourteenth centuries, summarising and updating previous scholarly interpretations of the tradition. It explores the tradition’s evolving themes and the various interests—Norwegian, Orcadian, and Icelandic—that they served. Medieval origin myths served as a tool by which members of different medieval elites (spiritual, intellectual, political) aimed to legitimise their present social role by marrying their ancestry (sometimes literally) into the origins of the communities they sought to rule. As the late Susan Reynold’s wrote, the primary purpose of such myths was “to explain the present and promote its values.” These words serve as a mantra for my own endeavour to understand and interpret the shifting themes and forms of the Frá Fornjóti myth.

Ben Allport is a researcher on the ELITES-project at the University of Oslo. He was among the first cohort to study the Viking and Medieval Norse MA at the University of Iceland and University of Oslo and received his Ph.D. from Cambridge in 2018. His research focuses on the creation of community in medieval narrative sources

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn


Annett Krakow

Peculiarities of the Flateyjarbók version of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta

Fimmtudaginn 17. mars, 2022, kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Flateyjarbók (c.1387–1394/95) preserves a version of the younger redaction of the so-called longest saga of the Norwegian king Óláfr Tryggvason. Compared with the older redaction and also AM 62 fol., another manuscript of the younger redaction, the Flateyjarbók version differs with regard to two aspects: First, interpolations related to the retainers who fight with King Óláfr in the decisive sea battle at Svǫlðr. Second, the last part of the saga, which covers the subsequent period of the king’s alleged survival until his death in a monastery.

In my talk, I will in particular focus on the first aspect. Even the older sagas of Óláfr Tryggvason by Oddr Snorrason and Snorri Sturluson named the men who fought on the king’s side, especially on his ship Ormrinn langi. In these sagas and in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, comparatively few of these men are referred to in other parts of the saga. In Flateyjarbók, attempts were made to diminish this discrepancy and to portray selected retainers. The modifications comprise additional stories in which they feature (for instance in the case of Þorsteinn uxafótr) and interpolations of names in the lists of retainers. A certain Hallsteinn, for example, is in Flateyjarbók explicitly identified as the son of Hrómundr halti and one of the protagonists in the interpolated Hrómundar þáttr halta. In the þættir, one learns that Hallsteinn and (partly) Þorsteinn uxafótr are of Icelandic descent. The same also holds true for Þorsteinn skelkr, whose name was added in the enumeration of retainers, and who is a character in an interpolated þáttr. Thus, Icelanders are among those men in Óláfr’s last battle, who are granted an intensified presentation in the saga.

Concerning the second aspect, modifications in the last part of the saga, one can, for example, note that chapters on Saint Óláfr and Haraldr harðráði were omitted. Moreover, the position of chapters related to the rule of Eiríkr Hákonarson was changed: placed after Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, they create a transitional passage to Óláfs saga helga. In this transitional passage, one can find further interpolations. One of these is Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar, the eponymous hero of which participates in a ‘re-enactment’ of the fight on Ormrinn langi.

Annett Krakow works at the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland). She holds an MA in English and Scandinavian Studies (2004) and a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies (2009) from Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany). Currently, her research focuses on Yngvars saga víðfǫrla and its reception in studies on Yngvarr’s expedition.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn

Jan Alexander van Nahl

The Domestication of Uncertainty

A New Reading of the Old Norse Kings’ Sagas

Fimmtudaginn 10. mars 2022 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

The Sturlungaöld is construed by scholars as a time of sociopolitical crisis, an assumption essentially built on the interpretation of saga literature. This crisis thus appears as something imaginary, fed by desires and fears — the experience of a break in continuity, stimulating the narrative construction of meaning, which reacted upon society. From this point of view, contradictions and ambiguities in the Old Norse sagas can be understood as tokens of time-conditioned instability.

It is against this assumption that my book „Kontingenz und Zufall in den altisländischen Königssagas“ (https://www.degruyter.com/document/isbn/9783110759280/html) focuses on the three grand compilations of Old Norse kings’ sagas: Fagrskinna, Heimskringla, and Morkinskinna. The most important novelty of this study is the radical shift of the theoretical foundation: whereas earlier interpretations of the kings’ sagas have argued against the premise of an outstanding competence of the saga characters (even linked to a vague concept of luck), my interest lies in the framework conditions and thus the bounds of human action. Focusing on relevant histories of mentality, both scholarly and everyday attitudes of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries are taken into account: sweeping events and developments such as the crusades, the rediscovery of Aristotelian writings, the division of philosophy and theology, as well as the establishment of a new type of fictional literature.

The close reading of the kings’ sagas demonstrates a narrative potential which seems to strive for making sense of the often improbable course of Nordic history. This meaningful construct, however, is embraced by the obvious insight into the limitations of human interpretation. Still, these sagas are hard to dismiss as nothing but a farewell to the past, present and future. After all, uncertainty raises hope regarding the realization of human dreams. Thus, in the face of the narrative de-construction of history, the recipient is urged to find new coordinates in a world of ‘as if’, coordinates that contribute constructively to the relief from the burden of uncertainty.

The (political) message of the kings’ sagas could then be: whoever was competent to be a narrator was particularly qualified to establish order even in real life. However, another message would be: this domestication of uncertainty cannot be brought to a conclusion, the path is not finally determined. This ambivalence of power and powerlessness that defines human life until death is argued to be the significant core of the kings’ sagas.

Jan Alexander van Nahl holds an MA from the University of Bonn, and a Dr. phil. in Scandinavian Studies and Medieval Archaeology from the University of München (2012), where he also finished his Dr. habil. in Old Norse Studies in 2020. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Iceland from 2014 to 2017, assistant professor from 2019 to 2021, and is currently associate professor in medieval Icelandic literature. He has published on Old Norse literature, digital humanities, Icelandic culture, and the societal task of academia. He is a member of the Academy of Sciences and Letters in Agder, Norway.

Streymi/Stream: https://eu01web.zoom.us/j/61490557702

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.

(Video) Landscape, Maternal Space, And Child Exposure In The Sagas Of Icelanders - Robin Waugh

Declan Taggart

No such thing as sin?

Morality and its links with Old Norse religion

Fimmtudaginn 3. mars 2022 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

For all that researchers over the last sixty years have carefully highlighted the industry, intellect and artistry of early Scandinavians and Icelanders, the word viking remains associated with activities like violence, theft and murder. To some onlookers, it has appeared impossible that the situation could be otherwise, given the dominance of paganism in contemporary society, while the majority of handbooks on Old Norse religion and culture do not consider a relationship between morality and religion at all.

In this talk, I will question that rough consensus and emphasize links between Old Norse religion, morality and social structure. My discussion will be split into two sections. The first will consider several episodes from mythological and legendary poetry, in particular from Skírnismál, which appear to reflect and build on contemporary moral norms. Here, I am chiefly interested in how far the gods are implicated in monitoring, rewarding and punishing human activity and the types of conduct with which the gods are believed to concern themselves.

In the second half of the seminar, I will examine how religious actions and images generate prosocial behaviours (i.e. conduct that benefits others, such as sharing, donating and co-operating). Key is a theory called costly signalling, which posits that (often personally expensive) religious acts demonstrate sincere commitment to a group and thereby trustworthiness. This theory will be applied to Old Norse funeral customs and afterlife beliefs to contemplate the impact of religious rituals and imagery on behaviour and, thereby, on solidarity within communities and dominant social hierarchies.

Declan Taggart is a postdoctoral researcher at Háskóli Íslands working on moral norms, religion and social structure in pre-Christian Iceland and Scandinavia. He has published a book on change in representations of the god Þórr called How Thor Lost His Thunder, and, for his last postdoctoral project, produced a short choose-your-own-adventure game based on the mythological poem Vǫluspá called Choose your own end to the viking world. It can be played for free here: https://dtaggart919.itch.io/choose-your-own-end-to-the-viking-world.

Streymi/Live stream Zoom: https://eu01web.zoom.us/j/69221891262?pwd=RDIrRnkwakUzMkdUQ2plbjdIempLQT09
Lykill/Key: 840504

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á ensku og er öllum opinn.


Úlfar Bragason

Sturla Þórðarson — minni og frásögn

Thursday, January 13, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Margt hefur verið rætt og ritað um uppruna Íslendinga sagna síðustu hundrað árin eða svo og sýnst sitt hverjum. Færra hefur verið skrifað um hvernig samtíðarsögur urðu til. Samt ætti að vera auðveldara að átta sig á því þar sem þær voru líklega flestar ritaðar á innan við hundrað árum frá því atburðir þeirra áttu eða eiga að hafa átt sér stað.

Íslendinga saga er hryggjarstykkið í Sturlungusamsteypunni þótt fræðimenn hafi greint á um hversu langt sagan nær og hvaða hluta samsteypunnar megi telja til hennar. Í greinargerð samsteypuritstjórans með verki sínu segir að Sturla skáld Þórðarson hafi sagt fyrir Íslendinga sögur (flt). Um heimildir Sturlu að frásögn sinni segir ritstjórinn: „hafði hann þar til vísindi af fróðum mönnum, þeim er voru á öndverðum dögum hans, en sumt eptir bréfum þeim er þeir rituðu er þeim voru samtíða er sögurnar eru frá. Marga hluti mátti hann sjálfr sjá, þá er á hans dögum gerðust til stórtíðinda.“ Nú vitum við ekki hvers vegna ritstjórinn talar um Íslendinga sögur í fleirtölu þótt ef til vill megi fara nærri um það. Við vitum heldur ekki hvað fólst í notkun hans á orðinu „bréf“ í sambandi við heimildir Sturlu. Þar fyrir utan getum við aðeins nálgast minningar Sturlu og heimildarmanna hans í frásögninni sjálfri.

Í fyrirlestrinum verður fjallað um heimildir Íslendinga sögu og hvað megi marka af greinargerð samsteypuritstjórans hvernig samtíðarsögur urðu til. Hverjir gætu hafa verið heimildarmenn Sturlu? Hverju mundu þeir eftir eða hvers konar frásagnir hefur sagan eftir þeim? Hverju er sleppt eða gleymt? Hvernig voru þessar frásagnir varðveittar og hversu traustar eru þær?

Úlfar Bragason er rannsóknarprófessor emeritus við Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum. Rannsóknir Úlfars hafa beinst að íslenskum miðaldabókmenntum, einkum samtíðarsögum, og flutningum Íslendinga til Vesturheims á 19. öld. Hann er höfundur bókarinnar Reykjaholt Revisited: Representing Snorri in Sturla Þórðarson’s Íslendinga saga sem kemur út um þessar mundir hjá Árnastofnun.

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic. All are welcome to attend. Maximum seating capacity 23; 1 meter social distancing; masks mandatory.

Streymi: https://eu01web.zoom.us/j/67914534131

(Video) Waterscapes in Nordic Mythology: Blood, Sacrifice & Creation

Ásgeir Jónsson

Efnahagsmál á landnámsöld

Fimmtudaginn 9. desember 2021 kl. 16.30 — FRESTAÐ
Lögbergi 101

Landnámabók geymir fjölskyldusögur 430 landnámsmanna, bæði karla og kvenna. Sumar eru sorglegar, aðrar ævintýralegar en allar fullar af von um nýtt líf. Hér er gerð tilraun til að fella þessar mörgu litlu sögur saman í eina stóra sögu í samhengi við aðrar heimildir, líkt og írska, skoska og enska annála. Og erlendar sagnfræðirannsóknir. Þrátt fyrir ýkjur og missagnir mynda landnámssögurnar einn frásagnarkjarna sem er í góðu samhengi við hagsögu evrópskra miðalda.

Nýútkomin bók ÁsgeirsEyjan hans Ingólfs er skrifuð sem fjölskyldusaga Ingólfs landnámsmanns í Reykjavík sem er með öðrum þræði saga Íslands. Ingólfur átti stóra fjölskyldu sem bjó bæði í Noregi og á Suðureyjum. Flest ættmenni hans á Írlandshafi höfðu tekið kristni og samlagast keltnesku samfélagi. En ófriður kippti undan þeim fótunum. Þau héldu til Íslands og námu um þriðjung ræktanlegs lands. Þessi frændgarður lagði síðan grunn að þinghaldi, stofnun Alþings, skipulagi goðorða og svo biskupsstól í Skálholti.Efnahagsáhersla bókarinnar er tvíþætt:

Í fyrsta lagi er fjallað um efnahagslegan drifkraft landnámsins í tengslum við breytingar í alþjóðaverslun á tímum víkingaferðanna. Flestir landnámsmenn voru upprunnir af Norðurveginum – hinni 1000 km strandlengju norðvestur Noregs sem um aldir var hlið meginlands Evrópu til heimskautasvæðanna. Úthafssiglingar Norðmanna til Bretlandseyja komu utanríkisverslun Norðurlanda í uppnám og komu af stað verslunarstríði sem hefur verið kennd við Harald hárfagra. Þá er hugað að tengslum Íslands við stærsta þrælamarkað í Evrópu í Dyflinni.

Í öðru lagi fjallað um hagræna þróun og stofnanauppbyggingu í nýju landi. Ljóst er að upphafleg lýsing eignarréttar á landi, hafði gríðarleg áhrif á dreifingu eigna og síðar skulda í hinu nýja ríki. Landnámssættirnar virðast þó hafa kosið fremur að selja land en leigja það áfram og þá frekar lána fyrir kaupunum. Kannski stafaði það af því hve peningalán báru háa vexti, veðtaka var auðveld samkvæmt lögum og framfylgd eignarréttar var skýr. Þannig skilaði landnámsöldin héruðum er voru skipuð sjálfseignarbændum en ekki leiguliðum. Þessi fjölmenna stétt sjálfseignarbænda varð síðan grundvöllur að goðorðum þar sem þingmönnum var raunverulega frjálst að velja sér goða til að fylgja án þess að vera háðir neinum leigudrottni.

Ásgeir Jónssonlauk BS- próf í hagfræði frá Háskóla Íslands 1990 þar sem BS-ritgerð hans fjallaði um hagkerfi Íslands á tímum frjálsrar alþjóðaverslunar árunum 1400-1600. Hann lauk síðan doktorsprófi í peningahagfræði og hagsögu frá Indiana University árið 2001 þar sem yfirskrift doktorsritgerðar hans var Short-term Stabilization in Small Open Economies. Ásgeir hóf störf á Hagfræðistofnun árið 2001, varð lektor við Hagfræðideild Háskóla Íslands árið 2004 og síðar dósent. Hann var deildarforseti Hagfræðideildar Háskóla Íslands 2015-2019, umsjónarmaður námslínu í meistaranámi í fjármálahagfræði og fjármálafræði frá 2006. Ásgeir hefur á ferli sínum ritað fjölda fræðilegra greina og bóka um peningamál, hagsögu og efnahagsmál.Hann er nú í leyfi frá Háskóla Íslands og sinnir starfi seðlabankastjóra.

Fyrirlesturinn verður fluttur á íslensku og er öllum opin á meðan húsrúm leyfir; hámark 50 manns; grímuskylda.

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