SCANDINAVIAN 220: Reading Old Norse Romance

W 1-4 , Remote. Instructor: Kate Heslop

Units: 4

Instructional Method, as of July 22, 2020:
This class will be taught remotely, per the July 21 campus announcement.

Little known today, but immensely popular in the late Middle Ages, the Norse romances are mainly famous for being unreadable: naïve, formulaic, superficial, decadent. A few pioneers considered them from the viewpoint of genre and source studies (Schlauch, Schach, Kalinke), translation practices (Meissner, Barnes, Kalinke), or literary sociology (Glauser, Driscoll). More recent scholarly interventions have focused on such topics as identity, race, gender and sexuality, monstrosity, and intersections of elite and popular learning, or material philology. Few of these studies have much to say about the experience of reading the romances.

This seminar sets out to consider Norse adventure fiction from the perspectives of the phenomenology of reading, narratology and theories of ‘distant’ or ‘surface’ reading. We will read a number of the romances, both translations from other languages and original Norse works, and explore the potential of recent approaches to large literary corpora in unlocking these texts.

Texts will be supplied by the instructor. Reading knowledge of Old Norse is required.