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

Mikael Males, "Patterns of Variation in Skaldic Poetry: Can We Arrive at a Firmer Footing?"

It is a commonplace that eddic and in particular skaldic poetry does not follow the oral-formulaic pattern of Parry and Lord. Statements about how variation might indeed have functioned in Old Norse poetry have though been notoriously vague and with regard to skaldic poetry boil down to its being very stable, but nonetheless allowing for variation. Whatever such an assessment might mean in practice is up to the individual scholar to decide, resulting, for the most part, in a rather naïve use of skaldic poetry as source-material.

I hope to show in my paper that there were indeed patterns of variation in skaldic poetry, if not as clearly discernible as the ones that Parry found, and also how this observation can be applied to analyses of both use and content of this poetry, from a synchronic as well as a diachronic viewpoint.  

The theoretical perspectives presented and the methods deduced from them have been worked out in cooperation with Rune Flaten at the skaldic seminar in Oslo, and his paper gives a concrete example of how they can be applied for source-critical tenability in problematic cases.


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