1st Edition

Old Norse Poetry in Performance

Edited By Brian McMahon, Annemari Ferreira Copyright 2022
    328 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    328 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book presents a range of approaches to the study of Old Norse poetry in performance.

    The contributors examine both eddic and skaldic poems and consider the surviving evidence for how they were originally recited or otherwise performed in medieval Scandinavia, Iceland and at royal courts across Europe. This study also engages with the challenge of reconstructing medieval performance styles and examines ways of applying the modern discipline of Performance Studies to the fragmentary corpus of Old Norse verse. The performance of verse by characters who appear in the Old Icelandic saga tradition is also considered, as is the cultural value associated not only with the poems themselves but with their various means of transmission and reception.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars in the fields of Old Norse studies, Performance and Theatre History.


    List of Contributors

    Introduction by Terry Gunnell

    Part 1: The Social Dynamics of Performance

    Chapter 1: Framing Old Norse Performance Contexts: The Wedding at Reykjahólar (1119) Revisited by Stephen A. Mitchell

    Part 2: Voice and Performance

    Chapter 2: Revisiting Zumthorian Vocality in Old Norse Poetry Studies by Inés García López

    Chapter 3: …með skarða skjöldu ok skotnar brynjur: The Distribution and Function of Aural Sense Impressions in Old Norse Poetry by Simon Nygaard

    Chapter 4: Dramatic Implications of Echoed Speech in Skírnismál by Harriet Soper

    Part 3: Collocation and Quotation

    Chapter 5: Eddic Poetry and the Uses of Anonymity by John McKinnell

    Chapter 6: Accretive Quotation and the Performance of Stanzas in Fagrskinna by Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen

    Part 4: Material Culture

    Chapter 7: Old Norse Poetry in Visual Art: a Comparative Perspective with the Islamic World by Rebeca Franco Valle

    Chapter 8: How the Hell Do You Read This? – The Evolution of Eddic Orality through Manuscript Performance by Frog

    Part 5: Modern Approaches to Performing Old Norse Poetry

    Chapter 9: Old Norse Poetry in Performance: Perils, Pitfalls and Possibilities by Brian McMahon

    Chapter 10: Interview with Leif Stinnerbom

    Chapter 11: Interview with Einar Selvik

    Chapter 12: Beowulf, the Edda, and the Performance of Medieval Epic: Notes from the Workshop of a Reconstructed ‘Singer of Tales’ by Benjamin Bagby

    Chapter 13: ‘ıð beſta eꝛ quæðeð fm̄ flutt’: Kveðnar Drápur og Kveðnar Rímur by Pétur Húni Björnsson

    List of Contributors

    Benjamin Bagby is a performer, teacher, and scholar of medieval music. He directs the ensemble Sequentia, which he co-founded in 1977. Since the 1990s, when he began performing the Beowulf epic, his focus has been on The Lost Songs Project, searching for performance solutions for sung texts which have survived without musical notation.

    Annemari Ferreira is Associate Professor of English as a foreign language at Woosong University, South Korea, and holds a Research Fellowship at the Africa Open Institute for Music, Research and Innovation at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Along with Brian McMahon she is a co-convenor of the ‘Old Norse Poetry in Performance’ project which generated this book.

    Frog is a folklorist based at the University of Helsinki specialising in verbal art and mythology.

    Inés García López is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer of German Language and Literature at the Faculty of Arts, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona (Spain). She specialises in critical studies on the reception of Old Norse literature.

    Terry Gunnell is Professor of Folkloristics at the University of Iceland. Author of The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia (1995), he is also editor of Masks and Mumming in the Nordic Area (2007) and Legends and Landscape (2008) and co-editor of The Nordic Apocalypse: Approaches to Völuspá and Nordic Days of Judgement (2013) and Málarinn og menningarsköpun: Sigurður Guðmundsson og Kvöldfélagið 1858-1874, which was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Award in 2017.

    Helen Leslie-Jacobsen is a researcher as the University of Bergen, leading projects on Old Norse legendary material and medieval and early modern Norwegian law.

    John McKinnell is Emeritus Professor in the Department of English Studies at Durham University and has published widely on Old Norse literature, with a particular focus on mythological poetry. A collection of his Essays on Eddic Poetry, edited by Donata Kick and John D. Shafer, was published in 2014.

    Brian McMahon is an Associate Lecturer in English at Oxford Brookes University, a published playwright and Artistic Director at Reverend Productions. Along with Annemari Ferreira he is a co-convenor of the ‘Old Norse Poetry in Performance’ project which generated this book.

    Stephen A. Mitchell, the Robert S. and Ilse Friend Professor of Scandinavian and Folklore at Harvard, works in a variety of genres and periods of Nordic culture and literature, especially the popular traditions of the medieval and early modern periods. He was one of the editors of The Handbook of Pre-Modern Nordic Memory Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches (2018) and is the author of, among other works, Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages (2011).

    Simon Nygaard is Assistant Professor in the Department of the Study of Religion, Aarhus University, Denmark. His primary research focus is on pre-Christian Nordic religion and ritual as well as oral poetry and performance in the Old Norse world.

    Pétur Húni Björnsson is a kvæðamaður – a performer of traditional Icelandic rímur. He holds master’s degrees in Folkloristics and Medieval Studies and is currently a doctorand at the University of Iceland, studying late medieval / early modern rímur and fornaldarsögur.

    Einar Selvik is a Norwegian composer, the main musician and founder of the Norwegian musical constellation Wardruna, a project renowned for their innovative and genre-creating renditions of older Nordic traditions. By using the oldest Nordic instruments, poetry and poetic metres in a contemporary soundscape, Einar has managed to merge the scholarly with the pop-cultural and has given a new voice to old thoughts, tools and techniques, reaching a worldwide audience and experimenting beyond the limitations of musical genres.

    Harriet Soper, PhD (2018, University of Cambridge), is Simon and June Li Fellow in English at Lincoln College, Oxford. She has published on various aspects of medieval poetry and her research often focuses on issues of individual and social identity at an intersection with form.

    Leif Stinnerbom has been the Artistic Director and Director of Västanå Teater in Sunne, Värmland since 1990

    Rebeca Franco Valle is an art historian and archaeologist specialising in the Viking Age and Medieval Europe.





    Brian McMahon is an Associate Lecturer in English at Oxford Brookes University and Artistic Director at Reverend Productions.

    Annemari Ferreira is Assistant Professor of English as a Foreign Language and Writing Centre Coordinator at SolBridge International School of Business, Woosong University, South Korea. She holds a research fellowship at the Africa Open Institute for Music, Research and Innovation at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.