Winchester Seminars on Comparative Medieval Cultures with Dr. Phil Cardew and Prof. Tom Shippey.

Just like with the previous entry on this topic, here are some notes of the latest Winchester Seminars on Comparative Medieval Cultures. The two talks given were by Dr Phil Cardew  and Prof. Tom Shippey.

Blogs, tweets and sagas: the subversion of authoritative discourse in medieval Iceland.

-There are social media and communication issues related to the culture of our time.

-There have been different approaches and out takes of texts all the way through history. In the 18th and 19th centuries there was passion for Danish epics about Nordic heroes. In the 20th century Iceland was trying to make a great image of their nation; here is were the sagas come in.

-There was a lot of copying and borrowing between the different versions of these texts. it also depended where the text was being produced-regional changes. Some of these were very popular, but all by sudden their popularity decreased until the 90s were a change in perceptions made them be re-evaluated.

-Comments on how the topic demonstrates a way of controlling the popular mind through literature and how the common consciousness can be affected. Also, he highlights the importance of tension between cultural artefacts and literary work. This ties in with the idea of tweeting and retweeting, and how part of the information is somewhat lost in translation- stuff is missed.

-Genres go through different stages- they are difficult to pin down, and adopted in too many different ways. This is what makes them so unique for the people who enjoy them. It is also very important regarding what they mean on their own and for the people.

-Final comment on tweeting- reinforce the concept of how ideas are manipulated through authoritative discourse and re-asserting said authority.


The creation of an enduring image: last stands of the Vikings

-The power of popular images: the viking cliché represent by Erik the Viking. Also consider the idea of dying with the sword in hand to go to Valhalla, like represented in many movies. Ragnarok images in very Hollywood fashion have a reason to exist: many derived from Snorri Sturluson’s work- The poetic edda and the Heimskringla.

-The importance of Thomas Barthulinos antiquities.

-The Vikings charm of novelty: what was different? They jokes and humour, the vulgarity and their very ordinary loud laughter, the bloody mindnedness, immunity to persuasion. impassivity: a hero shows true quality in defeat.Death of heroes: either fatal miscalculation or due to a traitor. Very well symbolised by Longfellow.

-The Battle of Svold-exalted commentary on the accounts given by Snorri.

-Several last stances in the sagas: Kjartan, Egil, Gretir and Gisli.

-Image of the Vikings in the literature preserved is not actually very different from that in the movies!


Questions discussed:

-Academia sometimes obscures certain things and hide them away, but this very same repression makes them fashionable again.

-Nibelungen similarity with Volsunga Saga, something apparently not everyone is able to appreciate or evaluate.

-Modern image of the Anglo-Saxons-issue because unlike the Vikings they did not have something like the sagas? There does not seem to be much interest on the subject.

-There are discrepancies between these public images

-About the sagas: valid approach through theme but not good to force them into a particular genre theory.


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