ProjectThe Other Sagas. A New Reading of the ‘Post-Classical’ Sagas of Icelanders

Basic data

The Other Sagas. A New Reading of the ‘Post-Classical’ Sagas of Icelanders
8/1/2018 to 7/31/2021
Abstract / short description:
Because of saga scholarship’s focus on the ‘classical’, thirteenth-century Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur), the so-called ‘post-classical’ sagas, dated to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as well as other saga genres have not been studied adequately. However, while changing attitudes have recently resulted in new approaches to these other genres, the ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur are still one of the most neglected sub-genres of medieval Icelandic literature.
These sagas have often been characterised as lacking interest in the social concerns prominent in the ‘classical’ sagas. Instead, they have been argued to depict a dichotomy between an exaggerated hero figure and episodically appearing paranormal opponents. Recently, however, Daniel Sävborg has called into question the dating-based approach to these supposedly late sagas. This opens up the possibility to revise other preconceptions about these sagas as well, especially concerning their lack of a social dimension and their focus on the paranormal.
This project aims to finally give full attention to a sub-genre comprising more than a third of the Íslendingasögur genre, and to reassess the notion that the ‘post-classical’ sagas lack social interest. Rather than assuming a dichotomy of hero vs. paranormal, a triangular relationship between the individual, the paranormal and the social will be argued to underlie saga composition. Each of these aspects will be considered in turn, as well as those cases in which the boundaries between them collapse. Ultimately, this will enable a reading of these texts as integrated in their socio-cultural background. Thus, the project falls into two parts: the first part, in which the texts themselves will be read in light of their characters and their interactions, and the second part, in which they will be situated in the background of late medieval Iceland, and in which the real-world concerns that found their reflection in the story-worlds of the ‘post-classical’ sagas will be considered.
This thorough reassessment of the narratives, the interactions between characters and their social context will ultimately lead to a fuller understanding of the Íslendingasögur as a whole. It will also provide a new way of reading saga literature by considering the intersections between aspects, most prominently the paranormal and the social, that have so far been considered essentially separate.
medieval times

Involved staff


Department of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of German Language and Literature
Department of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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