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HUM-Fagkomiteen for humaniora

Translation, Transmission and Transformation. Old Norse Romantic Fiction and Scandinavian Vernacular Literacy 1200?1500

Awarded: NOK 6.5 mill.

The project treats the establishment of vernacular literacy in the period ca. 1220 to 1500, the focus being on the interplay between foreign texts and a vernacular culture. The aim is to investigate the transformations of literary genres in medieval socia l context. The three groups of texts that will be studied are: translated romances, supposedly introduced at the Norwegian court from the first half of the 13th century, known as riddarasögur; indigenous, so called fornaldarsögur norðrlanda, which are con sidered to have their roots in an oral tradition; and later indigenous romances, fornsögur suðrlanda, which were produced in great numbers in Iceland in the 14th and 15th centuries. The project applies historical and philological perspectives on the sourc es and the problems they present. It consists of three detailed investigations, one for each of the groups of sagas, supplemented with two frame studies, which aim to provide syntheses from historical and philological points of view. The participants will cooperate closely, allowing for cross-fertilizing effects between different disciplines, as well as between detailed analyses and more general theoretical perspectives. We wish to put the emphasis on the importance of the manuscript culture of the Middle Ages and its context. Our basic concern is the establishment of vernacular literacy in Scandinavia and the implications of the transformation from an oral to a literate society. We will concentrate on three oppositions which are often understood as repre sentative of two almost independent cultures, i.e. imported culture vs. vernacular, literate culture vs. oral and elite culture vs. popular. Our aim is to challenge the all too simple view of these three oppositions as absolute, and rather argue for a mor e process oriented understanding of the introduction of a literate culture in Scandinavia.

Funding scheme:

HUM-Fagkomiteen for humaniora