SCANDINAVIAN R5B, Section 2: Sex and Gender in the Viking Age

TuTh 8-9:30 , 235 Dwinelle. Instructor: Adam J. Carl

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Old Norse sagas, Medieval Scandinavian narratives that resemble Modern day novels, depict intelligent, foreseeing, weapon-wielding women. Not all depictions are endorsements, and this R5B course will attempt to examine the nuances of gendered interactions in the texts using the large body of saga scholarship. The pagan-intoned literature features extreme homophobia, but with an underlying gender spectrum that feels more familiar to modern Queer Theorists than the majority of modern American pop culture. While modern culture insists on a strict gender binary – masculine and feminine exclusively – Medieval Scandinavian figures as famous as Odin and Loki appear gender fluid. As the closest Medieval genre to a modern novel, the saga style captured the imaginations of Romantic poets just the same as modern day Hollywood screenwriters. If we hope to understand these adaptations, we must first understand the source material.

This course focuses on reading, writing, and critical analysis, and ventures into literary and cultural studies as a way to give purpose to our practice. We will distinguish primary sources from secondary, scholarly from popular, and define relevant research. With the critical writing background from R5A or R1A (the prerequisite for this course), we can focus on making innovative arguments in two main research papers.

Required reading:

  • The Sagas of the Icelanders: A Selection. Penguin Press, 2001. 978-0141-000039
    • The Saga of Eirik the Red – 22 pages
    • Gisli Sursson’s Saga (pp 496-557) – 61 pages
    • The Saga of the People of Laxardal (pp270-422). – 152 pages
    • The Saga of Hervarr and Heidrek, trans. Christopher Tolkien. Found digitally.- 32 pages
  • The Hrafnista Sagas translated by Ben Waggoner 978-0557-729418
    • The Saga of Ketill-Trout
    • The Saga of Grim Shaggy-Cheek
  •  A Pocket Style Manual, 7th Edition by Diana Hacker & Nancy Sommers (no earlier than 5th edition, please). 978-0205309023
  • Other readings will be made available through bCourses