“An excellent introduction to all aspects of reading the sagas, combining practical guidance to approaching the texts with clear delineation of the genre and comprehensive analysis of the critical literature.”—Alison Finlay, co-translator of The Saga of the Jómsvikings: A Translation with Full Introduction
“Will become the standard introduction to the sagas for students who are approaching them in translation for the first time. Specialist scholars in Old Norse studies will find Phelpstead’s fresh approach to the subject stimulating.”—Christopher Abram, author of Evergreen Ash: Ecology and Catastrophe in Old Norse Myth and Literature
Combining an accessible approach with innovative scholarship, An Introduction to the Sagas of Icelanders provides up-to-date perspectives on a unique medieval literary genre that has fascinated the English-speaking world for more than two centuries. Carl Phelpstead draws on historical context, contemporary theory, and close reading to deepen our understanding of Icelandic saga narratives about the island’s early history.
Phelpstead explores the origins and cultural setting of the genre, demonstrating the rich variety of oral and written source traditions that writers drew on to produce the sagas. He provides fresh, theoretically informed discussions of major themes such as national identity, gender and sexuality, and nature and the supernatural, relating the Old Norse-Icelandic texts to questions addressed by postcolonial studies, feminist and queer theory, and ecocriticism. He then presents readings of select individual sagas, pointing out how the genre’s various source traditions and thematic concerns interact.
Including an overview of the history of English translations that shows how they have been stimulated and shaped by ideas about identity, and featuring a glossary of critical terms, this book is an essential resource for students of the literary form.
Carl Phelpstead, professor of English literature at Cardiff University in Wales, is the author of Holy Vikings: Saints’ Lives in the Old Icelandic Kings’ Sagas. A volume in the series New Perspectives on Medieval Literature: Authors and Traditions, edited by R. Barton Palmer and Tison Pugh