Icelandic Family Saga

Ref: C2228618

The Icelandic Family Sagas transport us vividly to the 10th and 11th centuries as Viking-age people left Scandinavia to explore the North Atlantic and beyond. We will read and discuss a selection of these fascinating tales which mix social history with supernatural encounters, tense feuds, vulgar revelry, laughter and loss. The selection includes sagas of prominent men, such as the warrior-poet Egil, the outlaw Gisli, Gunnlaug 'Serpent-Tongue', and a worshiper of the Norse god Freyr. We all also read the family saga of Laxardal, with its self-possessed women and tragic feuds. We will also uncover the fairy-tale elements of Vatnsdaela Saga, and witness the Viking discovery of America. As we meet Viking raiders, court poets, Scandinavian kings, commanding women, outlaws, berserks, witches, prophetesses, doomed lovers, lawyers, political schemers, Christian proselytizers, persistent ghosts, and explorers, we will create a detailed picture of a fascinating period of literature.

Course aim

To introduce a selection of the Icelandic Family Sagas; to read and discuss extracts which reveal a range of literary, religious, and social themes connected to the Viking Age.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Recall the historical, political, and religious context of early Icelandic literature
  • Demonstrate knowledge of some entertaining and moving stories from the Icelandic Family Saga
  • Identify typical aspects of the literary style of the sagas
  • Develop skills in expressing your opinions based on the evidence in the texts.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Extracts from the texts will be supplied, but, if you wish to read some of the sagas in full, the tutor recommends The Sagas of Icelanders (preface by Jane Smiley, introduction by Robert Kellogg, published by Penguin, 2000) which costs about £15.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Icelandic Family Saga

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