Synopses & Reviews
Old Norse texts offer many different ideas about what it is to be female, presenting women who occupy diverse social and economic positions or who have varying racial origins. Covering a much wider range of texts than have previous studies, this book presents a comprehensive and ground-breaking analysis of women in Old Norse literature. Raising new, probing questions, generated by theoretical insights from comparative studies, and from feminist, queer, monster and speech act theory, Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir explores the many ways in which medieval Icelandic sagas construct the relationship between women and power. Illuminating the preoccupations, desires, and anxieties of the sagas' authors and audiences, this book offers excitingly fresh perspectives on how Icelandic prose genres mediate medieval attitudes to women, power, social organization, and ideal human behavior.
"A broad range of secular prose sources are surveyed in this book to illuminate the agency of women in all manner of situations, from the decorous queen to the giantess, 'an independent figure bursting with improprieties'. Fridriksdottir gathers together an unlikely band of female figures from across the centuries of Old Norse literature, bringing into the frame a multitude of characters whose actions and words are full of interest." - Judy Quinn, Cambridge University
'Women in Old Norse Literature surpasses what has to date been written about the image of women in the sagas. Unlike previous studies that have focused almost exclusively on a handful of the classical Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders) and the figure of the female inciter, this book considers the role played by women in the entire corpus of extant secular, vernacular prose from around 1200 until the mid-sixteenth century. Analysis of the great variety of literary genres in Iceland in the Middle Ages, including the fornaldarsögur (mythical-heroic sagas) and riddarasögur (chivalric sagas), reveals women's search for subjectivity, autonomy, self-determination, access to economic resources, freedom of movement, love and respect in marriage, and even power in the public sphere. The book confirms that the sagas contain nuanced and multidimensional female characters distinguished by social position, ethnicity, economic means, and sexual behavior. The superb study attests the multiplicity and heterogeneity of female images and perspectives on women that were available to medieval Icelandic audiences.' - Marianne E. Kalinke, Professor Emerita of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
"FridriksdÃ³ttir is to be thanked for offering saga narratives not solely as engines of social control nor simply as exercises in imaginative empowerment, but rather as open, unpredictable worlds, created by their authors not so much to pursue a predetermined agenda as to entertain and excite reflection on the part of their audiences . . . Women in Old Norse Literature: Bodies, Words, and Power promises valuable future work on the implications of these sagas for understanding this society in greater depth, especially in how the various roles of both men and women were imagined in the evolving tension between traditional Norse forms of thought and feeling and the 'dominant paradigms' of medieval Christian culture." - The Medieval Review
About the Author
Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Iceland.
Table of Contents
1: Women Speaking
2: Women and Magic
3: Monstrous Women
4: Royal and Aristocratic Women
5: The Female Ruler