SCANDINAVIAN 60: Heroic Legends of the North

MWF 1-2 , Barrows 166. Instructor: Kate Heslop

Units: 4

Scandinavian 60 is a requirement for the five major concentrations in Scandinavian.

L&S Breadth: Arts & Literature

A hamstrung goldsmith. A cross-dressing god. A teenage dragonslayer. Swords stuck in trees and wrested from revenants. A deceived queen who takes a terrible revenge on her closest family. An antihero poet and strongman. These are just a few of the remarkable stories which have survived almost a thousand years from when they were composed by anonymous Scandinavian poets and authors. What gave these narratives their contemporary relevance, and why have they survived so long?

The time these stories come from (c. 800-1300 CE) was a period of radical change in Scandinavia, from the pagan warrior societies of the Viking Age, to the Christian, literate, centralized world of the Middle Ages. In this course, you will learn about the literature and other media of Viking Age and medieval Scandinavia, and explore how these stories of gods, kings, warriors, shield-maidens and tragic lovers can be related to the social changes taking place at the time they were enjoyed by their first audiences. You will acquire tools for reading and interpreting texts and artifacts from distant times and places, and explore some of the recent resonances of these narratives in various media (e.g. music, film, TV, graphic novels, games).


The Poetic Edda, trans. by Carolyne Larrington, revised edition (Oxford: 2014).

The Saga of the Volsungs, trans. by Jesse Byock (Penguin: 2000).

Grettir’s Saga, trans. by Jesse Byock (Oxford: 2009).

Further texts will be provided on bcourses.

 Prerequisites: none.  The course and readings are in English.