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Preserving a Violent Past: Politics and the Transmission of the Saga of Icelanders

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Anke Plagnol.

One of the most remarkable literatures to emerge from any Western country in the Middle Ages is the vast corpus of writing that was produced in Iceland, a land as peripheral in the thirteenth century as it is today. Many aspects of the Icelandic Commonwealth were anomalous in the medieval period: for 400 years the Icelanders had no king, and much of their literature was produced by powerful laymen rather than clerics. Thus books probably had an important function as cultural capital in the political rivalry between chieftains. Using the example of the Saga of Icelanders, the harrowing history of the Commonwealth’s downfall, I will examine the continuing role that politics has played in the genesis, transmission and study of early Icelandic literature.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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