This paper considers the social status of performers commonly identified in Old English literature as ‘gleomen’. Studies of music in diverse world cultures have revealed that musicians often have a unique status in society, a combination of low social status and high cultural importance, with a ‘licence to deviate’ from society’s norms and indulge in immoral and/or criminal behaviour. This paradigm for the musician figure was hypothesised by Alan Merriam, one of the 20th century’s principal ethnomusicologists. Subsequent fieldwork in diverse musical cultures has revealed similarly ambiguous reputations among individuals and groups of musicians. This paper considers whether historical gleomen, and indeed the ones imagined by poets and detailed in their poetry, also conformed to this paradigm.
My paper examines the atypical role of the performer of ‘death songs’, or ‘ævikviða’ (poems about a life), which tell a life story in Old Norse saga narratives. They are often performed by a character shortly before their death. My paper examines the performance of death songs as eddic poetry (usually timeless and anonymous with an epic theme), by a named poet to communicate his own life story as occasional poetry, a technique usually associated with court poetry. I put this in the context of the genesis of the sagas in which the poems are found and then consider the poems’ roles in structuring sagas.
Middle High German ‘Sangspruchdichtung’ is very much influenced by disputes between either fictional or historical singers. Most researchers share the opinion that these Dichterfehden are only superficially a competition for material advantages from favourers and that such polemics are ‘[i]n ihrem Kern […] vielmehr literarischer Streit um literarische Geltung’ (Wachinger (1973), S. 303). The paper asks for the strategies which Rumelant von Sachsen uses to take a stand in the field of (contemporary) Sangspruchdichtung. The individual author-profile substantially constitutes itself by means of ‘othering’, i.e. both drawing a line between and relating to other (contemporary) Sangspruchdichter. The focus lies on the use of poetic phenomena such as figurative speech.