Archive for November, 2009

Where to Study Medieval Scandinavia, 1: North America

I recently got an enquiry from an American student (Hi, Meg!) about the universities in the States that might offer courses in Old Norse at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. At Kalamazoo last year, in a round-table on the state of Saga Studies in the USA, one of the speakers claimed there were 38 institutions (I think) that offered Old Norse language in their syllabus. But I didn’t get a list, so I thought that we might try to compile one together. When we’ve identified likely universities, I’m going to try to get in contact with teachers in various locations and ask them to describe the opportunities available to students in our field.

So: where do (or can) you study Old Norse literature, language, and Medieval Scandinavian history/archaeology in North America (Canada is certainly to be included). Please leave a comment or use the contact page to let us know.

The information that would be most useful is:

  • What courses are available?
  • Which departments offer them?
  • Are they undergraduate or postgraduate level?
  • Are there opportunities for PhD research in these disciplines?

Once we’ve built up a database of North American institutions, we’ll move on to the rest of the world. Thanks for your help!

Odin at Lejre?


This Viking-Age figurine has already provoked quite a lot of interest on the net. Jonas Wellendorf brought it to my attention on norrø; it’s also been discussed in posts at Norse and Viking Ramblings and The Viking Rune. But is it really Odin, as people have already claimed?

Roskilde Museum is confident that this 2cm-high silver artifact represents Odin on his throne with his two ravens. It was found at Lejre, although not as part of the main excavations there.

It now probably won’t be long before the hall-complex at Lejre is claimed to be the prototype for Valhalla as well as for Beowulf‘s Heorot … but how convincing do you find the identification with Odin? Do you have an alternative explanation for this intriguing little icon? Do you agree with Martin Rundkvist that it’s in fact a female figure–Freyja perhaps? Let the speculation begin!

Aarhus University Summer Schools 2010

Our colleagues at Aarhus have now released details of next year’s summer schools in Medieval Scandinavian studies.  These summer schools have been a really great success in recent years (see Maja Bäckvall’s report on last summer’s event, for example). Next year there will be two summer schools. Click on the links for further details:

1. Viking Age Scandinavia – Transformation and Expansion

The University of Aarhus Summer School on Viking Age Scandinavia is an intensive short-session course designed to meet the needs of students interested in a brief but challenging educational experience during the summer.

Teaching takes place in a museum environment and brings together Danish and foreign students and staff. The course is open to BA and MA students in archaeology, history, literature and related disciplines from Denmark and elsewhere, as well as to other foreign students in Denmark and history teachers in secondary schools. The language of teaching is English.

Lecturers include Else Roesdahl, Unn Pedersen, and James Graham-Campbell.

2. From Greenland to Hell – Worldly, Mythological and Visionary Travels in Old Norse Literature

This summer school course focuses on travelling and encounters with the Other, themes that are widespread in a variety of Old Norse genres, both in historical, mythological and religious literature. The Old Norse texts will be studied primarily from a literary perspective, but will also be regarded as documents of a culture encountering the unknown.

The course allows you access to the latest knowledge in the field of international Old Norse studies. It is an intensive short session course designed to meet the needs of students interested in a challenging educational experience during the summer. Teaching takes place in a multinational environment, which brings together students and staff from different countries in Europe an abroad. The course provides you with an excellent opportunity to meet international lecturers and fellow students and to earn credit during the summer.

This course will be led by Pernille Hermann and Rolf Stavnem. Full details will be posted on the above website later this month.

A New History of the Viking Age

A brand-new history of the Vikings!

Penguin have just published The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of The Vikings by the UCL alumnus Robert Ferguson. Ferguson is something of a new name in Viking Studies — although he’s published widely on more modern Scandinavian topics — so it will be very interesting to see what new spin he brings to the subject (as it’s apparently forbidden to write a non-revisionist book about the Vikings these days).

Here’s how the blurb describes it:

For those living outside Scandinavia, the Viking Age effectively began in 793 with an attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne. The attack on Lindisfarne was a characteristically violent harbinger of what was in store for Britain and much of Europe from the Vikings for the next 300 years, until the final destruction of the heathen temple to the Norse gods at Uppsala around 1090. Robert Ferguson is a sure guide across what he calls ‘the treacherous marches which divide legend from fact in Viking Age history’. His long familiarity with the literary culture of Scandinavia – the eddas, the poetry of the skalds and the sagas – is combined with the latest archaeological discoveries and the evidence of picture-stones, runes, ships and objects scattered all over northern Europe, to make the most convincing modern portrait of the Viking Age in any language. The Hammer and the Cross ranges from Scandinavia itself to Kievan Rus and Byzantium in the east, to Iceland, Greenland and the north American settlements in the west. Beyond its geographical boundaries the book takes us on a journey to a misty region inhabited by Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, Harald Bluetooth, Ragnar Hairy-Breeches, Ivar the Boneless and Eyvind the Plagiarist, in which literature, history and myth dissolve into one another.

It’s certainly a handsomely-produced volume, and would I’m sure make an ideal festive gift for anybody interested in the Vikings. There are one or two things that make me initially wary about it, but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read the whole thing.

It’s substantially discounted at right now, and if you buy it after clicking on this link, a tiny portion of the proceeds will go towards the upkeep of Old Norse News.