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20. Rhetoric and Style

Þórir Oskarsson

Subject Literature » Medieval Literature

Place Northern Europe » Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235026.2004.00023.x


A widely accepted view among scholars is that Old Norse literature consists of two main elements: a popular tradition of storytelling and poetry practised by ordinary people from time immemorial, and a foreign literary culture, which learned people began to practise when literacy was introduced in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Within this dualistic framework, reference is often made to the two stylistic and rhetorical traditions in Old Norse literature, one seen as popular and indigenous, the other as learned and exotic. Sometimes this division seems quite evident; for example, it is a simple matter to claim that a close connection exists between, on the one hand, translated religious works and chivalric sagas, and, on the other, foreign rhetorical disciplines, and then to demonstrate it by comparing the translated texts with their originals. It is much more difficult to demonstrate the connection between Old Norse literature and oral tradition, since the tradition and the language in which it was couched have long since disappeared in their original form. Most scholars nevertheless assume the existence of such a tradition, and some have even tried to find evidence of it, particularly where narratives deviate from the patterns of foreign rhetoric or are not based on known rhetorical linguistic or stylistic devices. In this connection, attention is also given to whether works ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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