Germanic Languages | Vikings and Sagas
E103 | 0033-0036 | Gade
“Vikings and Sagas” is a course designed as an introduction to Old
Norse history, culture, and literature, focusing on the Viking Age
(c. 793–1066). In the course of the semester we shall explore the
nature and expansion of Viking activities during that period (e.g.,
on the Continent, in the Mediterranean, in the British Isles,
Ireland, Greenland, North America, as well as within Scandinavia
itself). We shall examine the validity of the source-material
(archaeological evidence, written records [annals, medieval
histories, sagas]) and the different theories formulated to explain
the onset of the Viking Age. The discussion of the cultural aspects
will deal with such issues as social customs, law and legal systems,
pagan religion, the conversion to Christianity, etc. We shall also
focus on the image of the Vikings in contemporary society, and
explore why the Viking–Age has continued to fascinate generations
from the twentieth and twenty–first centuries.
During the course we shall read six sagas that not only will serve as
an introduction to Old Norse literature (prose and poetry), but also
bring first-hand information about the socio–historical aspects of
the Viking Age. These sagas will provide the background for a broader
discussion of Old Norse–Icelandic literature, of the problems
involved in using literature as historical sources, and of the sagas
as literature from a modern point of view.
Your final grade will be computed as follows (NB: papers turned in
after the deadlines indicated on the syllabus will not be accepted):
1. Four short position papers (3-5 pp.; topics to be announced) (40%)
2. Participation in discussion session, including quizzes addressing
the content of the assigned readings and the lectures (20%)
3. Group project (15%)
4. Final paper (25%)
1. The Sagas of Icelanders: “Egil’s Saga” (pp. 3-184), “The Saga of
Gunnlaug Serpent–Tongue (pp. 558–94), “Gisli Sursson’s Saga” (pp. 496–
557), “The Saga of the Confederates” (pp. 463–95), “The Vinland
Sagas” (pp. 626–74).
2. King Harald’s Saga. Trans. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson.
3. Roesdahl, Else: The Vikings.
The sagas will be read in the order listed above.