Abstract: “They are properly frightened now.” Anxiety in the Sagas of Icelanders

Studying emotions in different genres of medieval Icelandic literature has become a popular field of research in recent years: Fear and anxiety have played a major role in times of crisis throughout the centuries and have been addressed, processed, and functionalized in different ways. In medieval Icelandic literature, however, it seems, anxiety hasn’t been depicted to a great extent: This also holds true for the renown genre of Íslendingasögur, the “Sagas of Icelanders”. Around 40 of these prose narratives, that were mostly written in the 13th century, are concerned with the deeds and fates of Icelanders in the period from the beginning of the Norse settlement around 870 until approximately 1030. Protagonists belong to upper-class families of the Icelandic free state and have first and foremost been characterized as brave and strong. Neither anxiety nor fear appears to be one of their characteristics. Quite on the contrary: Saga protagonists hardly seem to fear any future events, armed conflicts, revenants, or even death. In my research project I am going to approach anxiety in the Sagas of Icelanders in two ways: As a first step, dialogue analysis will be used to approach single protagonists’ anxieties on an intradiegetic level in order to demonstrate that even the toughest characters can be “properly frightened”. Subsequently, the project will be focusing on specific types of anxieties that play a major role for Icelandic society as depicted in the Sagas of Icelanders.

Dr. phil. Anita Sauckel

University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Medieval Icelandic Studies, Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies

 “They are properly frightened now.” Anxiety in the Sagas of Icelanders

Migration, Language, Culture and Discourse

Projects in this cluster cover a wide range of topics, including social integration, national isolationism, cultural identity, xenophobia, racism, etc.