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Mixed Lecture/Discussion
Situated on the margins of the medieval world, Iceland was remarkable for developing the largest secular literature in Europe – and Njál’s Saga is the longest, as well as probably the most famous and most artistically acclaimed, of the medieval Sagas of Icelanders. Probably written originally in the later 13th century, Njál’s Saga looks back to feuds of the later Viking Age, in the 10th and 11th centuries and presents much that is characteristic of the Sagas of Icelanders generally: a multitude of clearly drawn and memorable figures (both male and female); clever dialogue, full of dark humor and memorable phrases; great fighters and great fights; bad guys who nevertheless show us some redeeming traits, (however slight); and good guys with their own flaws and shortcomings (often fatal).

The module will follow an 8-session structure as follows:
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Lecture 1: Introduction to “Njál’s Saga” and its medieval Icelandic context; overview of “Hrut’s Saga” (chapters 1-18 of “Njál’s Saga”).
Discussion 1: Comments on and questions about the medieval Icelandic context of “Njál’s Saga” and the content of Hrut’s Saga” (chapters 1-18 of “Njál’s Saga”).

Lecture 2: Overview of “Gunnar’s Saga” (chapters 19-81 of “Njál’s Saga”).
Discussion 2: Comments on and questions about “Gunnar’s Saga” (chapters 19-81 of “Njál’s Saga”).

Lecture 3: Overview of “Njál’s Saga ‘proper’” (chapters 82-132 of “Njál’s Saga”).
Discussion 3: Comments on and questions about “Njál’s Saga ‘proper’” (chapters 82-132 of “Njál’s Saga”).

Lecture 4: Overview of “Flosi’s and Kari’s Saga” (chapters 133-159 of “Njál’s Saga”).
Discussion 4: Comments on and questions about “Flosi’s and Kari’s Saga” (chapters 133-159 of “Njál’s Saga”).
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Note: We wanted students to be aware that this module may contain violent, graphic, and/or other potentially disturbing material.

Required Texts

Cook, Robert, trans. Njal’s Saga. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2001.

Note: This is a higher intensity module. Students will be provided with readings and/or work outside of class if they want to go deeper (ex. 4 or more hours suggested per week).
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August 2024 Candidate  Hybrid

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