Focusing on discourses of magic in thirteenth - fourteenth century Icelandic texts that are concerned with kingship, this book examines the performative and ideological functions of texts dealing with magic in contexts of social and political conflict.
This volume examines the performative and ideological functions of texts dealing with magic in contexts of social and political conflict. While the rites, representations, and agents of medieval Scandinavian magic have been the object of numerous studies, little attention has been given to magic as a discourse. As a consequence, Old Norse sources mobilizing magic have been analysed mainly as evidence for a stable extra-textual phenomenon. This volume breaks with this perspective.
The book focuses on the use of discourses of magic in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Icelandic texts concerned with kingship. It is argued that Icelanders constructed magic as a discursive answer to the increasingly pressing question of how to deal with the reality of their subordination to kings. This they did by telling stories of flattering Icelandic successes over kings brought about by magic in a bid to challenge dominant definitions and the social and political status quo. The book thus follows the conditions of emergence that made these subversive discourses of magic meaningful; it describes the various forms they were given, the various constraints weighing upon their use, and the particular political goals they served.
Chapter 1. Theorizing Magic
Chapter 2. The Vocabulary of Old Norse Magic
Chapter 3. Magic, Discourse of Invective
Chapter 4. Magic, Discourse of Power
Chapter 5. Magic, Kings, and Poetry
Chapter 6. Miracles, Saints, and Magic
"Meylan has provided thoughtful reflections on the possibilities found in the interstices between magic and poetry, magic and religion, and practice and discourse." (Adam Oberlin, in: The Medieval Review, February 2015, 15.02.07)
"In my opinion, Meylan's book offers an important contribution to the history of religions and the study of magic in Norse contexts. Since few scholars working in this field of research discuss the nature of the medieval texts thoroughly, their ideological content and meaning for the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century readers is also quite innovative. The method of using discourse analysis is also fruitful in this context, since for instance, it unmasks the problems and limits of historical and essentialist interpretations. Meylan has no doubt provided new perspectives, thoughtful reflections, and insights into the topic of magic and kingship in medieval Icelandic literature." (Olof Sundqvist, in: Numen 63, 2016, 329-333)