The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180-1280) (Paperback)Professor Theodore M. Andersson (author)
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In this book, Theodore M. Andersson, a leading scholar of the Norse sagas, introduces readers to the development of the Icelandic sagas between 1180 and 1280, a crucial period that witnessed a gradual shift of emphasis from tales of adventure and personal distinction to the analysis of political and historical propositions. Beginning with the first full-length sagas and culminating in the acknowledged masterpiece Njals saga, Andersson emphasizes a historical perspective, establishing a chronology for seventeen of the most important sagas and showing how they evolve thematically and stylistically over the century under study.
Revisiting the long-standing debate about the oral and literary components of the sagas, Andersson argues that there is a clear progression from the somewhat mechanical gathering of oral lore in the early sagas to an increasingly tight and authorially controlled composition in the later sagas. The early sagas-including The Legendary Saga of Saint Olaf and Odd Snorrason's Saga of Olaf Tryggvason-focus on conspicuous individuals and their memorable deeds; later works are more apt to formulate the abstract problems and ideas that preoccupied their authors. As the authors begin to impose their views on the inherited narratives, the sagas become more and more critical and self-conscious, to the point where Njals saga may be considered not only to approximate a novel in our sense of the term but also to comment on the saga form.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 248
Weight: 397 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
"Theodore M. Andersson has a fair claim to being the most important North American voice in saga scholarship, and this book is a stimulating, thoroughly informed, insightful, and thoughtful account of a representative set of sagas."-Journal of English and Germanic Philology
"The very fact that one is drawn to engage with Andersson's saga criticism is a great strength of this book-there has never been enough committed, opinionated (in the most positive sense), intelligent, informed, and personal close reading of saga text. It is easily the best account to date of the origins of saga narrative."-Modern Language Review
"The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180-1280) is both useful and thought-provoking throughout. Andersson's style is succinct and engaging. He introduces a number of basic concepts, which are clearly and useful explained, while still finding room for some striking, original, and challenging arguments."-Saga-Book
"There is no one in the field who combines so well the virtues of elegance, critical acumen, magisterial knowledge, and sheer love of the sagas. It was via Theodore M. Andersson's work that I was introduced to the sagas, and now, forty years later, in this splendid book, it is still Andersson who is teaching me how to read them. The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas has a strong claim to be his finest work and that is praise indeed."-William Ian Miller, University of Michigan
"This strikingly original book by Theodore M. Andersson, who knows more about the craft of saga-writing in medieval Iceland than anyone else, crowns four decades of his writings on these extraordinary texts. From the first glittering appearance of sagas at the end of the twelfth century to the autumnal wisdom and bleakness of Njala a hundred years later, there is much here to surprise and delight."-Roberta Frank, Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English, Yale University
"Theodore M. Andersson gathers various threads including oral tradition, Olafs saga Tryggvasonar, Morkinskinna, and the Ljosvetninga saga into a culmination of his pursuit of the origins and development of the Icelandic sagas over the past forty years. This is a subject that somehow always seems fresh in Andersson's hands. I am very much impressed by how Andersson manages to convey to the reader some sense of the magic of the sagas. I particularly like his refreshing and somewhat daring new analysis of Njals saga."-Hermann Jakobsson