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Old Norse Poetry and the Development of Saga Literature

Alternativ tittel: Norrøn poesi og utviklingen av norrøn sagalitteratur

Tildelt: kr 11,9 mill.

Det norrøne skaldeverset fant sin form i Norge allerede ca. 850 og er kanskje Nordens viktigste bidrag til den europeiske kulturarven. Skaldedikt er en vesentlig bestanddel i sagalitteraturen som utviklet seg på 11–1200 tallet. Hovedmålet i dette prosjektet er å undersøke skaldediktningens betydning for utviklingen av den norrøne sagalitteraturen. Et viktig verktøy vil være nyutviklede metoder til å datere skaldekvad på lingvistisk grunnlag, og på den måten avgjøre om strofene kan være så gamle som de gir seg ut for. Videre vil den nye utgaven av skadekorpuset være et viktig hjelpemiddel (Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, red: Margaret Clunies Ross & al.)

The most radical Nordic literary innovation in the pre-modern era was the development of skaldic poetry. Besides runic inscriptions and eddic poetry, skaldic poetry from the 9th to the 14th centuries provides the oldest extant textual sources in Norway, Iceland and other Norwegian settlements. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, this poetry became the foundation on which Old Norse literature was built. This process has not been coherently described since a time when scholars assumed that oral tradition simply made its way into writing, thus creating a clear window on the past. No serious scholars would argue that today, but this question has still not been appropriately addressed: If Old Norse literature is not oral tradition in written form, how was it created? This project argues, firstly, that poetry had a profound formative effect on the development of Old Norse saga literature. Secondly, we suggest that saga literature went through two major stages of development: At first, saga authors sought to substantiate their accounts by quoting older poetry, and that poetry had a great influence on both style and content. Later, other authors wanted to write in the same style, even when the sagas became more fictionalised. At this point, authors started to compose poetry in the name of the early poets, so that the demands of prose came to affect poetic composition. These shifting tendencies only become visible when linguistic and metrical changes are studied in a more rigorous manner than has so far been the norm. Accordingly, this project has a strong emphasis on methodology, drawing on recent research by a number of Old Norse scholars, including the project participants themselves.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam