The Icelandic Sagas are unique literary documents from medieval Iceland. They inform us about the cultural, political, and religious currents of a land in tumult and transition. Unlike many contemporary texts, these are not inherently moralistic or celebratory — instead they are dark, matter-of-fact inquiries into the way individuals respond to often unresolvable situations. In this course, we will encounter vindictive women, treacherous kings, heroes and anti-heroes, lawyers, berserkers and poets.
Texts include Njál's Saga, Egil’s Saga, The Saga of Gísli the Outlaw, The Saga of king Hrolf Kraki, selections from Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, and several shorter sagas such as Hrafnkel’s Saga and Thorstein Staff-Struck. Key themes engaged in the class include vengeance and feuds, magic and religion, conversion, and gender roles.
Discussion of the readings, short papers, presentations, and a term paper
There are no prerequisites.
The class is structured as a seminar. All texts are in English.