30th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 27-28, 2010

Rune Flaten, "Þórsdrápa – A Minimal Reading of Skaldic Poetry"

When attempting to use skaldic poetry as source for medieval Norse society and mentalities, one problem immediately calls for attention. In the proposed paper I want to focus on the state of the material, which in many cases leads us to work with versions of the poems that are less than ideal, many of the least accessible, but most interesting poems being modern emendations on the basis of seemingly corrupt transmissions.

Seeing as traditional emendating or maximizing readings have resulted in interpretations that are of uncertain worth as commentaries on the actual text, I would like to pursue a different approach towards Þórsdrápa. This poem, allegedly composed by Eilífr Goðrúnarson sometime in the late 10th Century, is generally acknowledged to be one of the least accessible skaldic poems.

In my analysis of the poem, I will work without emendations, leaving unintelligible stanzas aside. I will investigate the poem as transmitted in Codex Regius of Snorra Edda, not addressing questions of origin and transmission. If this approach results in an internally coherent understanding of the poem, it is my hope that it may also be of value in finding sober readings of other skaldic poems, hitherto subject to bold assumptions.


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