IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 1503: Ogresses, Heroes, and Scribes: Literary Aspects in Viking Writings

Thursday 12 July 2012, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Queen's College, University of Oxford
Paper 1503-aMise-en-page and the Prosimetrum of Ketils saga hængs
(Language: English)
Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen, Centre for Medieval Studies, Universitet i Bergen
Index terms: Language and Literature - Scandinavian, Literacy and Orality, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 1503-bThe Hall of Mirrors: The Usage of Patterns of 'sem fyrr var sagt/getit' and 'sem fyrr var ritat' - Formulas in the Íslendingarsøgur
(Language: English)
Slavica Rankovic, Centre for Medieval Studies, Universitetet i Bergen
Index terms: Language and Literature - Scandinavian
Paper 1503-cIntroducing Disruptive Behaviour in the Íslendingasögur
(Language: English)
Joanne Shortt Butler, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Language and Literature - Scandinavian, Literacy and Orality, Manuscripts and Palaeography

Paper -a:
Writers of manuscripts sought to mediate their readers’ responses to the text by way of mise-en-page. I examine several manuscripts of Ketils saga hængs, an Old Norse legendary saga written in prose interspersed with verse, and discuss how the layout of the text on the manuscript page is deliberately controlled with respect to the way that verse is marked out and why the scribe might see it necessary to highlight the poetic portions of the work. Methods used to mark off verse from prose include the mark ‘V’ in the margin or the verse written in a display script.

Paper -b:
The paper examines the use of the mirror formulas sem fyrr var sagt/getit (‘as was said before’/ ‘as was mentioned before’) and sem fyrr var ritat (‘as was written before’) in the sagas of Icelanders. Although all three varieties are used in the context of writing – the writers/scribes literally refer to something they have (or at least supposed to have) written about earlier – they are nevertheless indicative of the complex orality-literacy interrelationships within the Íslendingasǫgur genre. It seems logical that the formula referring to’the already said/mentioned’ arose in an oral context first and has thus given birth to the one involving writing. However, in the typical evolutionary non-linear manner, the latter formula does not come to replace the former, but sem fyrr var sagt/getit undergoes a semantic transformation in the new medium and its meaning is extended to encompass the already written as much as the already said. In fact, the instances of sem fyrr var sagt (57)/getit (18) greatly outnumber sem fyrr var ritat (19). Moreover, the latter seems to have been a passing trend characteristic of a specific period (early-mid 13th century) and of a specific group of sagas (western; particularly Laxdæla saga, which alone features 9 instances).
The paper delves into the questions of significance of this and other patterns that have emerged from the collected data. In addition, it juxtaposes the formulas’ treatment in the sagas with that in various other Old Norse genres which reveal their own idiosyncratic usage patterns and potentially contextualise those within the genre under scrutiny.

Paper -c:
Character introductions form an essential part of the narrative grammar of the family sagas. This paper will examine features common to these introductions with specific reference to the description of Víga-Styrr Þorgrímsson in Eyrbyggja saga. Styrr is a powerful individual, but he is also ójafnaðr (unjust/inequitable) and an ofstopamaðr (a tyrant/overbearing man). Figures described by the words ofstopi and ójafnaðr and their compounds are frequently associated with disruption and discord in the family sagas, and this paper will focus on the ways in which saga narrative can emphasise the disruptive abilities of these characters through their introductions. Negative qualities in these passages will be considered alongside qualities that may be considered to be positive and it will be asked to what extent these descriptions rely on cliché and formulas and what their assumptions were about their audience’s knowledge of the characters described.