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29. Women in Old Norse Poetry and Sagas

Judy Quinn

Subject Literature » Medieval Literature

Place Northern Europe » Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235026.2004.00032.x


Abiding curiosity about the social position of women in Scandinavia before and after the conversion to Christianity, and about the degree to which their representation in literary works might have been affected by the Christian context of textualization, has long underpinned research on women in Old Norse literature. Increasingly in recent years that research has also engaged with gender theory more broadly, resulting in a flourishing field of study which has produced a number of book-length studies in the last decade or so ( Jesch 1991 ; Kress 1993 ; Jochens 1996 ; Anderson with Swenson 2002 ) as well as numerous articles and book chapters. In tandem with work on masculinity in the Old Norse world, scholars have begun to investigate deeper conceptualizations of the female in mythology, laws, poetry and saga literature. There is not space here for a detailed engagement with the new perspectives this work has thrown up or with recent readings of particular texts, and the list of references cannot provide anything but the principal markers to the field: it is hoped this chapter may serve instead as a companionable guide to some of the sources and some emergent ideas about what ‘femaleness’ might have meant in Old Norse skaldic and eddic poetry and saga literature. Prompted by Laqueur's work on the one-sex model of sexual difference in western Europe, Carol Clover has speculated ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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