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Studies in the Transmission and Reception of Old Norse Literature
The Hyperborean Muse in European Culture

J. Quinn, M. A. Cipolla (eds.)
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XVI+355 p., 27 b/w ill. + 5 colour ill., 7 b/w tables, 156 x 234 mm, 2016
ISBN: 978-2-503-55553-9
Languages: English
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A collection of essays illuminating the transmission of Old Norse literature before and between manuscripts and its reception by successive generations of scholars and artists.

The compelling world of the Vikings and their descendants, preserved in the sagas, poetry, and mythology of medieval Iceland, has been an important source of inspiration to artists and writers across Europe, as well as to scholars devoted to editing and interpreting the manuscript texts. A variety of creative ventures have been born of the processes of imagining this distant ‘hyperborean’ world. The essays in this volume, by scholars from Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, and the UK, examine the scholarly and artistic reception of a variety of Old Norse texts from the beginnings of the manuscript tradition in twelfth-century Iceland to contemporary poetry, crime fiction, and graphic novels produced in Britain, Ireland, Italy, and Iceland. The influence of Old Norse literature is further explored in the context of Shakespeare’s plays, eighteenth-century Italian opera, the Romantic movement in Sweden and Denmark, and the so-called ‘nordic renaissance’ of the late nineteenth century (including the works of August Strindberg and William Morris), as well as in some of the political movements of twentieth-century northern Europe. Interest in Old Norse literature is charted as it spread beyond intellectual centres in Europe and out to a wider reading and viewing public. The influence of the ‘hyperborean muse’ is evident throughout this book, as the idea of early Nordic culture has been refashioned to reflect contemporary notions and ideals.

Table of Contents


I. The Transmission of Old Norse Literature  Before and Between Manuscript Witnesses

Editing and Translating SnorraEdda: Some Observations on the Editorial History of Snorri’s Ars Poetica — ADELE CIPOLLA

The Principles of Textual Criticism and the Interpretation of Old Norse Texts Derived from Oral Tradition — JUDY QUINN

Parsimony in Textual Criticism: On the Elimination of Intermediary Manuscripts — ODD EINAR HAUGEN

II. Adaptations of Old Norse Literature  and their Influence

In Search of Amlóða saga: The Saga of Hamlet the Icelander — IAN FELCE

Ambleto: A Study of an Italian Libretto of the Eighteenth Century — MARCELLO ROSSI CORRADINI

Translations of Old Norse Poetry and the Lyric Novelties of Romanticism — MATS MALM

Hrólfr kraki from Sentimental Drama to Fantasy Fiction — TEREZA LANSING

Building up the Ties with the Past: August Strindberg and Starkaðr — MASSIMILIANO BAMPI

August Strindberg’s remaking of Áns saga Bogsveigis — MARIA CRISTINA LOMBARDI

William Morris and the Poetic Edda — ALESSANDRO ZIRONI

Old Norse Myths and the Poetic Edda as Tools of Political Propaganda — JULIA ZERNACK (translated by MATTHIAS AMMON)

III. The Contemporary Reception of  Old Norse Literature

A Place in Time: Old Norse Myth and Contemporary Poetry in English and Scots — HEATHER O’DONOGHUE

An Old Norse Manuscript to Die and Kill for: Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson’s Flateyjargáta — CHIARA BENATI

Arnaldur Indriðason’s Konungsbók: Literary history as MacGuffin, Or: Raiders of the Lost Örk — CAROLYNE LARRINGTON

Sagas as Sequential Art: Some Reflections on the Translation of Saga Literature into Comics — FULVIO FERRARI

Index of Names

Index of Old Norse Manuscripts


“In this re­spect, the editors and authors of this volume should be lauded for engaging in a transhistorical dialogue between antiquity and modernity, philology and fiction, manuscripts and best-sellers, and for drawing attention to several texts that have hitherto remained unknown to many scholars.” (Dario Bullitta, in The journal of English & German Philology, 116/4, 2017, p. 536)

“With its wide methodological, chronological and generic scope, [it] constitutes a varied yet valuable contribution to a still evolving field, the reception and subsequent refashioning of early Norse (especially Icelandic) culture in the works of scholars, artists and politicians across Europe. The volume is unique in its geographical scope and consideration of a wide variety of genres (…) Scholars and students of both medieval and modern Scandinavian culture will find this to be an inspiring, rich and entertaining collection (…)” (Verena Höfig, in The Medieval Review, 10/09/2017)

“As a whole, the collection provides valuable insights into ways in which the Old Norse world has been reused and adapted from the medieval period to the modern day. The essays cover a wide range of time periods and media, examining texts that have received little critical attention alongside those by key figures such as Morris, to produce a broad picture of the reception of Old Norse literature (…) this is a book that furthers the understanding of the afterlives of Old Norse literature from the medieval to the contemporary period. Indeed, what more could one want than, in the words of Morris’s lecture printed in this collection, to ‘be happy and talk together of the old days of Odin and Thor’?” (JessicaHancock, in Saga-Book, XLI, 2017, p. 172-173)

“This volume is a strong, coherent collection with a finely expressed thematic thread tying it all together. It represents some of the best most recent scholarship to be found on these topics, and reminds us that the muse inspires us as well, daring us to think about the interface between art and science, between imagination and critical thought, between inspiration and perspiration, and to keep asking the difficult reflexive questions about what it is we are all doing here.” (Roderick McDonald, in Parergon, 35/1, 2018, p. 194)



Interest Classification:
Medieval & Modern (Indo-European) Languages & Literatures
Germanic langs & lits (other than English)
North Germanic/Scandinavian languages & literatures
Comparative & cultural studies through literature
Comparative literature (general)
Medieval & Renaissance History (c.400-1500)
Medieval European history (400-1500) : local & regional history
Scandinavian & Baltic lands

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