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Title: Beyond sorrow and swords : gender in the Old Norse Volsung legend and its British rewritings
Author: Hancock, Jessica Clare
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 2022
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores male and female identity in Old Norse and British iterations of the Völsung legend, focusing on the Poetic Edda and Völsunga saga, William Morris's The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, and Melvin Burgess’s Bloodtide and Bloodsong. Using poststructuralist theories of gender and posthumanism to analyse representations of gender in these texts, it argues that, in the Old Norse versions of this legend, female identity is closely connected to the control of representations of narrative events, whereas male identity is subject to this control but becomes more overtly fluid in the depiction of shape-shifting. The thesis goes beyond previous critical analyses of gender in these texts which observe an active/ passive binary, or focus on female monstrosity and lament, and male heroism. Unlike most examinations of adaptations of this legend which focus on the medieval or Victorian material, this thesis provides a detailed exploration of The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs in conjunction with its Old Norse sources. In doing so, it establishes the silencing of female characters by Morris's rewriting, and the foregrounding of male identity through a focus on the body, performance and the built environment. This thesis also considers both the Old Norse texts and Morris's poem alongside later, critically neglected, British versions of the legend to explore the ways in which narrative form influences the representation of the multiplicity of gender in The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, and the importance of a posthuman conception of identity in Bloodtide and Bloodsong. The thesis argues that the Old Norse sources do not stand aside from their later interpretations as something complete and originary, but are themselves supplemented by the rewritings of Morris, Tolkien and Burgess; it is, therefore, necessary to foreground our knowledge of all these iterations of the narrative to offer a fuller understanding of gender in the Old Norse Völsung legend and its British rewritings.
Supervisor: O'Donoghue, Heather Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English and Old English literature ; Literatures of Germanic languages