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Nested Narrative:Þórðar saga hreðu and Material Engagement

  • Author(s): Ward, Elisabeth Ida
  • Advisor(s): Lindow, John
  • et al.
Abstract

Nested Narrative:Þórðar saga hreðu and Material Engagement

Þórðar saga hreðu is an Icelandic saga, of the type usually referred to as Sagas of Icelanders or Family Sagas, that lacks much of the drama of other sagas of a similar type. The dissertation utilizes this genre outlier to test a new method for analyzing the sagas, which combines literary analysis with recent anthropological theory. This method foregrounds the interaction of the material world with the saga narrative as an essential way that meaning is constructed. Chapter 1 looks at the saga's physical manifestation in manuscripts, which offers a new emphasis on the saga as a product of a local community. Chapter 2 turns to the human-made objects referenced within the text, suggesting that the depiction of the material world in this saga is in keeping with the non-modern milieu from which it originated. Chapter 3 focuses on scenes in the saga where characters are described as moving through the landscape, and analyzes these as a way to demonstrate how co-constitutive the real landscape was for the saga narrative. Chapter 4 employs Cultural Memory theory to explain why certain placenames are included in the saga instead of others, noting that placename references are a clear invitation to include the real material world into the meaning-making of the saga. Chapter 5 looks at how the dynamic between the narrative of the saga and the local landscape of Skagafjörður as place has been disrupted in the modern period. The Conclusion offers a broad assessment of why repositioning the material world back into the interpretation of saga narratives is important.

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