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

Kim Middel, "Signs of Identity in the Alexanders saga"

Alexanders saga is the latest in a series of five Latin texts that were translated and adapted into Icelandic, none of which have received a great deal of academic attention as yet. A reason for this might be that scholars were concerned that what they might find in these non-Icelandic sagas was not as specifically Icelandic as what had been found in the cultural-anthropological research done on the Íslendingasögur over the past 25 years.

However, the fact that the Alexanders saga was an adaptation of the Alexandreïs, the most significant mediaeval text about model king Alexander the Great, translated in the Icelandic Commonwealth shortly before its end, raises questions about possible adaptations that might have been necessary to present this text to an Icelandic audience. A text such as this seems an ideal place to look for signs of Icelandic self-awareness. Does the saga give us any information as to whether the translator could handle and pass on the ideas that lie at the root of the Alexandreïs succesfully?

In this paper, I will present a brief survey of how the translator has handled the ideas in the Alexandreïs though the speech by Aristotle, which plays a key role, and their implementation in the story. Finally, I will draw tentative conclusions about any Icelandic self-awareness or lack thereof, and offer ideas regarding the development of self-awareness on Iceland in the centuries to follow based on these conclusions.


Last modified: Oct. 13, 2009
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