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Fornaldarsögur, Prosimetrum, and History-Writing in Medieval Iceland

Rowbotham, T P (2018) Fornaldarsögur, Prosimetrum, and History-Writing in Medieval Iceland. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Rowbotham, T. P. - Fornaldarsögur, Prosimetrum, and History-Writing in Medieval Iceland.pdf - Examined Thesis (PDF)
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In recent scholarship, the Icelandic fornaldarsögur – legendary, “mythic-heroic” sagas – have typically been regarded as a locus for literary fiction in medieval Iceland, owing in part to their genetic and generic relation to romance literature. This thesis aims to redirect the debate and argues for the historiographical function of these sagas. Following a discursive introductory chapter, each of the three main chapters analyses the various narrative and rhetorical strategies of individual fornaldarsögur in comparison with contemporaneous historiography, with particular emphasis of their prosimetrical form. In Chapter 2 I analyse how the comic and folktale elements of Gautreks saga serve to historicise its moral exempla, and, drawing on the theoretical frameworks of Mikhail Bakhtin, argue that the saga’s representation of geography and space serves to compartmentalise its fictionality in discrete “chronotopes.” I also demonstrate how the quotation of poetry in Gautreks saga, modelled on the konungasögur (‘kings’ sagas’), serves to authenticate the prose narrative. In Chapter 3 I analyse how the author of Vǫlsunga saga drew on genealogical and biographical models of historiography to expand the Poetic Edda’s account of the early Vǫlsung dynasty and Sigurðr Fáfnisbani’s early life. Numerous verses in Vǫlsunga saga are quoted to corroborate the prose, but, I argue, they appeal to the anonymity and continuity of the oral eddic tradition for their authority, in contrast to the skaldic tradition of the konungasögur. In Chapter 4 I analyse how many of the verse quotations of Ragnars saga loðbrókar authenticate the prose narrative, despite their presentation as direct speech. I go on to analyse the significance of the Ragnarr legend in skaldic poetics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries – in particular, the remembrance of Ragnarr as a poet himself – and argue that this lent weight to the verse quotations in the saga as direct testimonials. I conclude by analysing the geography and spatial representation, genealogical structures, and the prosimetrum of other fornaldarsögur, demonstrating that studying these texts in relation to medieval historiographical discourse furthers our understanding of the both the genre and thirteenth-century Icelandic literary culture more widely.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Mr T P Rowbotham
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 13:47
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 13:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24017

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