IMG_2293 A13th century manuscript containing the Islendinga sogur, the Sagas of the Icelanders.

It’s an awfully busy time, but some things are worth the time and energy they take. This is one : medieval Icelandic sagas (well that’s just the FB page actually): the course is held by the University of Iceland. I started two weeks ago, and it’s great.

Image: Islandia, Public Domain, Antwerp 1585

The first  week I learned about the sagas and their classification, and I realized I knew little and most of it was imprecise to say the least; to begin with, I learned that although all the sagas were written down in Iceland, the Sagas of the Icelanders are those about settlers who lived in iceland in the first few centuries (the saga age).

Last week was  on manuscripts, authorship and variants. It is  good to go back to some things I  studied at university ages ago, such as paleography, and doing assignments is also stimulating. Pity I have to choose what to do first – writing my homework or correcting my students’ ?

One of the most striking things I actually already knew from W. Auden’s essay Secondary worlds: the Sagas of the Icelanders are so realistic that when they were read in Europe in the 19th century they were believed to be chronicles of historical events rather than imaginative literature. It seemed impossible that low mimetic fiction (the recreation of the  reality in all its physical detail ) had already existed long before the first novels.

Finally, this week’s lesson also had a surprise concerning Vikings: I read that the first man to travel to Iceland on purpose was an explorer called Hrafn Floki – Floki the Raven. I have borrowed a map from the course and added it to an older post: Floki in Iceland.

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