Conference on Old Norse Mythology: Paganism Past

thorvaldscrossWhat happens to a religious system when it becomes a part of the past instead of the present? What are the interpretive models used to understand the religious traditions one has turned from? How do we explain the continued survival and relevance of myths? Which factors ensured the preservation of myth as myth in Iceland, but not in the neighboring regions? How does myth change through codification? Why is there so little evidence of allegorical and non-literal interpretation of Norse myth? How unencyclopedic is the Prose Edda and where are its gaps? What has been forgotten? Does myth require specific memory practices? These and related questions will be discussed at the two-day conference Paganism Past.

Abstracts are available here.

Organizers: Kate Heslop and Jonas Wellendorf.

The conference is open to the public. With questions, please contact the organizers.

Sponsored by the Barbro Osher Chair for the Department of Scandinavian, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Division of Arts and Humanities.



Saturday – Oct 29

9:00 Welcome

9:15 Jonas Wellendorf (UC Berkeley) – ‘“There Can Be Only One”: The Shifting Fortunes of the Old Norse High-Gods’. Response: Terry Gunnell

9:50 Annette Lassen (University of Copenhagen) – ‘Myth and Memory: The Plasticity of Old Icelandic Traditional Tales’. Response: Carl Olsen

10:25 Jacob Hobson (UC Berkeley) – ‘The Learned Reception of Eddic Poetry’. Response: Margaret Clunies Ross

11:00 Coffee Break

11:25 Stephen Mitchell (Harvard University) – ‘Sweden’s Missing ‘Paganism past’’. Response: Maths Bertell

12:00 Carl Olsen (UC Berkeley) – ‘Icelandic Memory and Identity: Archive and Trauma in the Reemergence of the Pagan Past’. Response: Kate Heslop

12:35 Lunch (for speakers)

13:45 Judy Quinn (Cambridge University): ‘Perspectives on ragna rök/røkr’. Response: Jacob Hobson

14:20 Merrill Kaplan (The Ohio State University) – ‘Maurnir: The Circumstantial Case for Female Cult Recipients in Vǫlsa þáttr’. Response: Rudolf Simek

14:55 Coffee Break

15:15 Rosie Taylor (UC Berkeley) – ‘Land of the Living, Land of the Dead: Ódáinsakr and its Sources’. Response: Matthias Egeler

15:50 Maths Bertell (Mid Sweden University) – ‘The Editor’s Choice: Writing the Pagan Past’. Response: Jonas Wellendorf

16:25 Matthias Egeler (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) – ‘The Sacred Landscape of Þórsnes’. Response: Kate Heslop


19:00 Dinner (for speakers)


Sunday – Oct 30

9:15 Kevin Wanner (Western Michigan University) – ‘The Once and Future Myth: Literal and Allegorical Reclamations of Odin’. Response: Matthias Nordvig

9:50 Zachary Blinkinsop (UC Berkeley) – ‘Instar Ægyptiorum: Norse Myth and Ancient Egypt in Early Modern Swedish Scholarship’. Response: Stephen Mitchell

10:25 Adam Carl (UC Berkeley) – ‘Sonatorrek: Critiquing the Pantheon or Subverting the Heroic Elegy?’ Response: Judy Quinn

11:00 Coffee Break

11:25 Terry Gunnell (University of Iceland) – ‘Why did Myths of Óðinn and Þórr Live on in Mainland Scandinavia, and Not in Iceland? Response: Jonas Wellendorf

12:00 John D. Niles (University of Wisconsin, Madison) – ‘Paganisms Past: Putting Pressure on the Category of the Germanic’

12:35 Lunch (for speakers)

13:45 Rudolf Simek (University of Bonn)- ‘Ekphrasis: Iconography and Mythology’. Response: Erik Schjeide

14:20 Erik Schjeide (UC Berkeley) – ‘The Intersection of Old Norse Literature and Viking Age Imagery: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Comprehension of dyrehodestolper’. Response: Merrill Kaplan

14:55 Coffee Break

15:15 Matthias Nordvig (University of Colorado, Boulder) – ‘Paganism Past and Ideas of Authenticity’. Response: Annette Lassen

15:50 Kate Heslop (UC Berkeley) – ‘“Hroptr’s Boys”: Divine Kinship in Eddic and Skaldic Kennings’.

16:25 Margaret Clunies Ross (University of Sydney) – ‘The Ontological Pastness of Old Norse Religion and Myth’. Response: Kevin Wanner