2011 February 17: Richard Harris, "Opening the Gateway to Old Norse Orality"

The February 2011 ETRUS presentation is by Richard Harris, Department of English:

Opening the Gateway to Old Norse Orality: the plan of a portal site for studying the origins of Old Norse/Icelandic literature
2011 Feb 17
3:30 pm
DRC (Arts 145), University of Saskatchewan

For the last two centuries scholars have been debating the relationship of the texts of the mostly 13th century Old Icelandic sagas to what Theodore M. Andersson termed the ‘oral family saga’, that is, all the stories all the Icelanders ever told one another about their ancestors in Norway, their settlement of Iceland, and the often contentious activities and preoccupations of the early Icelanders themselves. In recent years I have come to the conclusion that phraseological or micro-structural studies of these texts, that is the study of short phrases and wisdom formulas, can give us at least some idea of the inventory and uses of these building blocks of orature, to whatever body of narratives underlies the written words that are left to us.

While my Concordance to the Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases of the Old Icelandic Sagas takes one step in this direction, 1. listing such texts in files defined by individual sagas, the projected portal site will go farther, 2. offering a display which will allow analysis of formulaic introductions to and comments upon episodes that seem to suggest oral origin, and 3. including a digitized version of Inger M. Boberg’s Motif-Index to Early Icelandic Literature. I hope my presentation will elicit helpful suggestions as we make our way towards the construction of this site.