Book Series Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, vol. 57

New Light on Formulas in Oral Poetry and Prose

Daniel Sävborg, Bernt Ø. Thorvaldsen (eds)

  • Pages: ix + 371 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:15 b/w, 15 col., 19 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2023

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60428-2
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60429-9
  • E-book
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The present volume discusses new approaches, models and interpretations of formulas in traditional poetry and prose.


Daniel Sävborg is Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Tartu. He has published c. 70 works within the field of Scandinavian studies, mostly concerning Old Norse literature, manuscript philology, Scandinavian folklore, and medieval Swedish history.
Bernt Ø. Thorvaldsen  is professor of Norwegian at the University of South-Eastern Norway. He has published on different aspects of Old Norse language, literature, mythology and culture.


During the twentieth century scholars discovered that oral poetry in entirely unrelated cultures in the world share a basic characteristic: the use of verbal formulas, more or less fixed word strings, which were inherited from tradition. The discovery of formulas revolutionized the understanding of oral tradition, and how oral poetry was transmitted. Homer, Eddic poems, Karelian laments, Serbian heroic poetry, etc., were suddenly seen in a new light. But the original Oral-Formulaic Theory has also been questioned and revised. New approaches in the study of formulas have been developed among linguists and folklorists.

The present volume discusses new approaches, models, and interpretations of formulas in traditional poetry and prose. The twenty authors in the volume analyze formulas in a broad context by letting oral traditions from all over the world shed light on each other. The volume aims to deepen our understanding of the function and meaning of these formulas. A unique feature is that the volume focuses as much on formulas in oral prose as in poetry – usually formula studies have focused entirely or mainly on poetry.


Formulas in Oral Poetry and Prose: An Introduction — DANIEL SÄVBORG and BERNT Ø. THORVALDSEN

Fee, Fi, Fo, Formula: Getting to Grips with the Concept and Deciding on a Definition — FROG

Formulas, Collocations, and Cultural Memory — STEPHEN A. MITCHELL

A Formula is a Habit Colliding with Life — SLAVICA RANKOVIĆ and MILOŠ RANKOVIĆ

Chunks, Collocations, and Constructions: The Homeric Formula in Cognitive and Linguistic Perspective — CHIARA BOZZONE

A Further History of Orality and Eddic Poetry — PAUL ACKER

Formulas in Scottish Traditional Narrative: Finding Poetry in the Prosaic — WILLIAM LAMB

Towards a Typology of Runic Formulas: With a Focus on the One-Word Formula in the Older Runic Inscriptions — MICHAEL SCHULTE

Revisiting Formula and Mythic Patterns and the Interplay Between The Poetic Edda and Vǫlsunga saga — SCOTT A. MELLOR

Same Meaning, Different Words: Retelling as a Mode of Transmission in Old Norse-Icelandic Konungasögur Tradition — DARIA GLEBOVA

Depicting Violence in Íslendingasögur: A Formula on the Verge of Legal Tradition — EUGENIA VOROBEVA

Formulaic Word-Play in the Poems of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle — INNA MATYUSHINA

Freeman’s Formulas: Openings, Transitions and Closes — JONATHAN ROPER

The Aesthetics of Russian Folktale Formulas: A View from Translation Studies — TATIANA BOGRDANOVA