Archive for the 'Conferences' Category

Proverb Conference in Saskatoon

Richard Harris writes to let us know of a conference to be held next year on the theme of Proverbia Septentrionalia. The Uses of the Proverb in the Medieval Cultures of Northern Europe.

It will be held at St Thomas More College in Saskatoon, Canada, on 11-13 November 2011. A Call for Papers has just been issued (click the link above). Here’s what the conference website says about its aims:

At this conference we will examine the uses of the proverb in the medieval cultures of northern Europe, in particular how such phrases are employed in literature and in non-fictional writings.  The discipline of paroemiology, or the study of proverbs, recognizes their origins as often preceding the literate stage of societies.  In fact, they must have made up a significant element in that formulaic framework by which knowledge and wisdom were fixed and transmitted generationally in the communities of pre-literate humanity.  The still unmapped syntactic structure of the paroemial form lent itself both to mnemonic efficiency and to rhetorical persuasion—even today, there are cultures in Africa where litigation and governmental advice are expressed proverbially, and the conduct of law in our own societies still employs proverbial material occasionally, just as do our politicians.

Aristotle was of the view that proverbs constituted the remains of man’s early philosophy which survived through their brevity and cleverness, and whole books of sacred texts are devoted to these formulaic dictums upon just and wise behaviour.  In this context, the entertainment of The Fables of Aesop is surely subordinate to their grounding in the wisdom often encapsulated at their close with a sentence of proverbial nature.  The fact of proverbs arising from the oral heritage of a culture has led some to opine, with Francis Bacon, that “The genius, wit and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs,” but whether such pursuits are productive is doubtful.  Of greater use to the discipline is the acknowledgement that proverb texts have, and indeed may be defined by, their own generative structure, a structure to which Archer Taylor referred, if unconsciously, when he observed, “An incommunicable quality tells us this sentence is proverbial and that one is not.”

The presence of this structure in texts incorporated in poems and stories marks such passages not merely as instructive in themselves, but also as resonating with accepted communal wisdom in ways that can help us understand the works in which they occur.  Papers are welcome at this conference on any aspect of proverbial material in north European medieval literature and culture.

Call for Papers: Inaugural St Magnus Conference, Orkney

From Alexandra Sanmark:

The Centre for Nordic Studies UHI invites you and your colleagues to
submit abstracts for the Inaugural St Magnus Conference, Orkney 2011 at the Centre for Nordic Studies, UHI Millennium Institute, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, 14-15th April, 2011.

The 2-day international conference will feature presentations on cultural and geographical connections between Scotland and the Nordic World, fostering dialogue and knowledge exchange between academia, government and the public. The theme of this event concerns cultural, geographical and historical links between Scotland and the Nordic World. However, we welcome talks on all Nordic and maritime topics, particularly comparative studies. Abstracts are due by 30/11/10. Read more »

Runic Seminar at Aberdeen

There will be a one-day seminar on Runes in Context: Runes, Runic Inscriptions, Early Scandinavian Society and Early Germanic Languages at the University of Aberdeen on 3 May. I don’t have very much information about it, but the speakers have been confirmed–assuming the volcano stops doing its dirty work–as:

Dr Marie Stoklund, Curator Emerita and Senior Researcher at the National Museum, Copenhagen

Prof. Hans Frede Nielsen, Dept. of English, University of Southern Denmark, Odense

Prof. Henrik Williams, Dept. of Scandinavian Languages and Director of the Centre for Runology, University of Uppsala

MA Irene García Losquino, Centre for Scandinavian Studies, University of Aberdeen

Prof. Stefan Brink, Centre for Scandinavian Studies, University of Aberdeen

Dr Tarrin Wills, Centre for Scandinavian Studies, University of Aberdeen

All are welcome–if you’re interested in attending please contact Stefan Brink directly at

Viking Society Student Conference 2010

The Viking Society is holding its annual student conference in London on 13 February. Everybody is welcome to attend–whether a student or not or a Society member or not.

The theme of this year’s conference is Skaldic Poetry, and the programme is as follows:

10.30 Coffee, Registration (Jeremy Bentham Room)

11.00 Richard North (London): ‘Skaldic verses. How to read them; how not to fear them’.

11.45 Debbie Potts (Cambridge): ‘Myth and metaphor in the self-referential language of early skaldic verse’.

12.30 Erin Goeres (Oxford): ‘My hope of wealth died”: Personal gain and personal grief in the commemorative verses of Glúmr Geirason and Eyvindr skáldaspillir’.

1.15 LUNCH

2.00 Alaric Hall (Leeds): ‘Kennings, personal names, and understanding supernatural beings’ (across the skaldic corpus as a whole, but definitely with some reference to Ragnarsdrápa).

2.45 Heather O´Donoghue (Oxford): ‘Skaldic verse in saga prose’.

3.30 David Ashurst (Durham): ‘Verse as sex act: chiefly in Kormaks saga‘.

4.15 TEA

The conference will be held in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, University College London. (South Junction of the main building, at the top of the stairs. Registration and refreshments will be in the Jeremy Bentham Room.)

To Register: Please email Alison Finlay <> by Monday 8 February to inform us of your intention to attend. The conference costs £10 — which covers the cost of coffee, tea and a sandwich lunch. Please send a cheque for this sum to Alison Finlay, Department of English, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, WC1E 7HX (to arrive by 12th February) OR pay using a credit card via PayPal at the Society’s website.

Conference in Bergen: Retrospective Methods

Helen Leslie kindly wrote in to tell us about a conference to be held at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bergen on 13-14 September 2010. Here’s how Helen introduces the theme of the conference:

The conference is organized by the Retrospective Methods Network in cooperation with the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. The purpose of the network is to promote and develop retrospective methods in historical studies in a wide sense. The background is the growing interest in folklore and other 19th and 20th century evidence as a supplement in studies of pre-Christian Scandinavian beliefs. Methodologically this is highly problematic, however; we must not use late evidence in the same naïve way as the scholars of the early 20th century. Therefore, a renewed effort in the development of retrospective methods is required, hence the network and the conference.

The conference is open to all and only half of the papers will be invited. Papers on all kinds of retrospective approaches are welcome, from all kinds of fields, treating all kinds of topics and material, as long as they can help develop better and more explicit methods for retrospective reasoning. The organizers hope that a renewed discussion of retrospective methods can lead to a higher level of methodological consciousness and a stronger demand for explicitness in claims, methods and reasoning in Old Norse studies.

The Call for Papers is out now, with a deadline of 15 February. Please see the conference website for further details.

Myth and Theory in the Old Norse World

News of another exciting conference, this time at the University of Aberdeen:

22-23 October 2009

Myth and Theory in the Old Norse World

Background to the Conference (from the conference website)

In 2005 Scandinavian scholars assembled in Aarhus, Denmark to discuss progress in the study of Old Norse mythology.  The reason for this gathering was a fresh interest in this field (and in particular in the reassessment of its theoretical-methodological foundations), which has recently resulted in new research projects, PhD theses and academic articles.  This has generated a new fascination for the topic amongst the general public, leading to several museum exhibitions and newspaper articles.  All this has taken scholars by surprise.  In response, leading academics have decided to meet and discuss methodological foundations, sources and current issutes in the field of Old Norse mythology at an annual conference.  The aim is to construct a new theoretical foundation for future study, through discussion of a vital aspect of Early Scandinavian culture, history and religion:  namely our pagan mythology.

In 2008 it was decided that the 2009 conference should take place in Aberdeen, organised by the Centre for Scandinavian Studies (  The theme for this conference in Aberdeen is Myth and Theory in the Old Norse World, with contributions from Literary Historians, Linguists, Historians, Historians of Religions, Archaeologists and Ethnologists.

Participant speakers will reassess and qualify current scholarly opinion, and papers are expected to provoke lively debate.  Speakers will include many leading international scholars as can bee seen in the programme.

It looks like another excellent conference in a series that has already produced some highly stimulating results.  Speakers will include Robert Segal, Margaret Clunies Ross, John Lindow, Terry Gunnell, Rudolf Simek, and many more…

Conference: New Directions in Medieval Scandinavian Studies

Next year’s annual Medieval Studies conference at Fordham University, New York has just been announced. Excitingly, the theme is New Directions in Medieval Scandinavian Studies. It will take place on 27-28 March 2010.  Key-note speakers will include Lesley Abrams, Martin Chase, Matthew Driscoll, Roberta Frank, Vésteinn Ólason, Kirsten Seaver, and Kirsten Wolf. I think this sort of event is just what the field needs, and I’ll certainly be there.

The Call for Papers has been issued, and is available at the Conference Website. Deadline for paper proposals is 2 October There aren’t many details on the site as yet, so keep checking back.

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