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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages & Cultures - Scandinavian Stud

Undergraduate Course: Old Norse Studies (Ordinary) (ELCS09004)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides an overview of societal, cultural and literary developments in the North Atlantic island of Iceland, from its settlement in the late 9th Century through the end of its Commonwealth Period in the later 13th Century. The main focus of the course is the rich literary heritage of medieval Iceland. Students will engage with a representative selection of texts, covering a range of genres and topics. By undertaking guided readings and analysis against a background of pertinent historical, and cultural developments, the course will review the value of these texts as literary artefacts and historical source materials.
Course description Old Norse Literature & Society begins with an overview of the discovery and settlement of Iceland in the 9th century AD, highlighting the cultural background and worldview of the colonists, and serving as an introduction to the society they established. The focus then turns to the state Conversion of Iceland to Christianity at the end of the first millennium, and the wider significance of the associated process of 'literisation'. We will consider how the art and tradition of writing was used by the Christian Church and secular elite in Iceland to promote and safeguard their interests, before moving on to discuss the origins and significance of more specifically literary genres, as defined in recent scholarship.

Topics to be covered will typically include early historiography, poetry and paganism, bloodfeud and balance in the Family Sagas, the format and features of Icelandic 'Romance', and the importance of the gift. The individual texts and extracts studied will include appropriate illustrative examples of history-writing, skaldic and eddic verse, sagas from several different genres, and þættir.

While the aesthetic qualities of these texts will be examined, the main focus of our reading will be the contextualised analysis of themes, tropes and content. By considering the historical, cultural and political context within which the material was written, we will explore the extent to which it can be used to understand the beliefs and societal concerns of the authors, and in some cases, their ancestors.
Students enrolled on the PG variant of this course will participate in five additional tutorials to help broaden and deepen their understanding of the topics under consideration.

Breakdown of Learning & Teaching Activities:
Each week, the students will watch some short videos (c. 5-9 minutes each) to introduce them to the specific themes to be studied [Asynchronous]. These videos are linked to further resources and core reading materials, available via the course Learn page [Asynchronous]. After engaging with these teaching and reading materials, students will complete a computer-marked Multiple-Choice Quiz via Learn [Asynchronous]. The Quiz will test whether the students have absorbed and understood the factual underpinning of a named theme from the required readings. Each week's Quiz will have to be completed before the end of the relevant teaching week.

All students will also be assigned to small autonomous learning groups for the purpose of participating in a weekly discussion group, focusing on several questions relating to the week's specified themes. Each group will discuss these questions amongst themselves before participating in the live weekly Discussion Group, where the whole class will meet synchronously for a scheduled c. 45 minute meeting. The weekly Discussion Group Leader from each group will communicate their conclusions to the whole class [Synchronous]. Students unable to attend the discussion group, will be given the opportunity to make an audio recording of their answers and submit them in advance. However, a Discussion Board will also be maintained for students for whom this is not possible, with teaching staff responding to questions posted for the remainder of that week [Asynchronous].

PG students will give an additional short presentation on an assigned topic at one of the additional 5 PG-only Discussion Group meetings of c. 45 minutes [Synchronous].

Over the first 5 weeks of the course, all students will formulate draft essay proposals, identifying a viable topic for a discursive essay. This will be submitted by the Tuesday of Week 5, with formative feedback provided within the following week. Students will submit their final essay proposal for grading by the end of Week 6. UG students will submit their essay for assessment by the end of Week 12. PG students will submit their essays by the school-wide PG essay submission deadline for the semester.

Potentially Re-Traumatising Content:
In this course, we will be discussing content that may be re-traumatising to some students. Some of the themes covered may touch upon issues which are misogynistic, homophobic or foreground physical violence. We believe in the importance of engaging with this material and so please rest assured that we will work with you to ensure you can participate fully and demonstrate your achievement of the learning outcomes of the course, without compromising your wellbeing or your academic development. If you have concerns at any point, we invite you to approach the course organiser to discuss how we can best support you in your work on this course. We affirm that you will be treated with dignity and respect in all discussions and at every stage of the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Ordinary students only.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesStudents must have successfully completed an appropriate course in Scandinavian Culture, or in Literature, or History at Level 8 (or equivalent). The Course Organiser can advise on appropriateness.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a good understanding of the major societal developments in Iceland from the 9th to the 13th Century
  2. Critically appraise a range of Old Icelandic literature in translation into English, using a range of approaches and methods of interpretation, highlighting the connection between societal concerns and literary expression.
  3. Identify and develop a suitable topic for a discursive essay, exploring a relevant aspect of medieval Icelandic literature and society, supported by sufficient, relevant source materials.
  4. Produce a clear and coherent essay, which develops arguments both critically and systematically with the use of relevant emphases, subsidiary points, and examples, and with reference to the ongoing academic debate.
  5. Participate meaningfully in discussion of selected themes, demonstrating finely honed communication, presentation and interaction skills across a range of media and circumstances.
Reading List
Primary Reading:
Íslendingabók (Libellus Islandorum)
Grønlie, S. (transl.) (2006) Íslendingabók - Kristni saga: The Book of the Icelanders - The Story of the Conversion. London: The Viking Society for Northern Research; pp. vii-xxix & 3-34

Snorra Edda (Extract)
Faulkes, A. (1987) Snorri Sturluson: Edda. London: Everyman; pp. vii-xx, 1-5, 6-58.

Both in: Larrington, C. (2009) The Poetic Edda. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford World Classics.
NB: The following editions with valuable commentary, are also available on LEARN:
Pálsson, H. (1996) Völuspá: The Sibyl's Prophecy. Edinburgh: Lockharton Press.
Pálsson, H. & Edwards, P. (1998) The Words of Odin: Hávamál. Edinburgh: Lockharton Press.

Hrafnkels saga Freysgóði
Auðunar saga Vestfirzka
Both in: Pálsson, H. (1971) Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories. London: Penguin Books,; pp. 7-33, 35-71 & 121-128.

Brennu Njáls saga (Extracts)
Cook, R. (transl.) (2006) Njal's Saga. London: Penguin Classics; pp. 1-132 & 211-227.
(See also: Magnusson, M. & Pálsson, H. (1959) Njál's Saga. London: Penguin Classics - Now out of print, but worth reading if you can get it).

Örvar Odds Saga
'Arrow-Odd', In Pálsson, H. & Edwards, P. (transl. & intro.) (1985) Seven Viking Romances. London: Penguin; pp. 7-23, 25-137 & 282-8.

Magnúss saga berfætts
Findlay, A. & Faulkes, A. (transl.) (2015) Snorri Sturlusson: Heimskringla: Volume III: Magnús Óláfsson to Magnús Erlingsson. London: The Viking Society for Northern Research; pp. 127-144
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsOld Norse,Old Icelandic,saga,edda,Snorri Sturluson,Iceland,Medieval,Viking
Course organiserDr Alan MacNiven
Tel: (0131 6)50 3279
Course secretaryMiss Gillian Paterson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3646
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