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Title: Old Norse visions of the afterlife
Author: Carlsen, Christian
ISNI:       0000 0004 1673 6944
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The nature of life after death is only tentatively sketched out in the canonical writings of the Christian Church, yet it represents one of the most prominent literary subjects in medieval Europe. The so-called Visiones represent a genre that enjoyed a particularly broad dissemination between the fourth and thirteenth centuries. This study aims to assess the impact of this Latin tradition on Norse-Icelandic authors and processes of cultural appropriation evident in medieval vernacular adaptations of the genre. The first chapter outlines the historical and theological conditions surrounding the genre’s dissemination in Western Scandinavia and identifies the primary corpus of vernacular adaptations of the genre to be analysed in this study. Chapter II considers the literary contexts in which Visio-conventions have been integrated, highlighting the distinctive generic and creative diversity exhibited in the primary corpus. Chapters III and IV are concerned with the literary motif of the journey to the otherworld and its importance in Old Norse literary traditions across the period of Christianisation. The former examines signs of continuity on a conceptual level between traditional native and Christian narratives about the otherworld, suggesting that the journey motif represented a sustained source of literary creativity in pre- and post-conversion societies. The latter examines this notion of continuity with reference to two significant literary symbols, the otherworld shoe and the otherworld bridge, and their pregnant resonances in Norse Icelandic records of myth, law, and religious ritual; it will here be shown how certain symbols found in vernacular accounts of the afterlife produce a rich set of connotations meaningful within their particular cultural setting. The final Chapter analyses the social mentality encoded in portrayals of the idealised hereafter, and it will be argued that portrayals of eschatological justice and the topography of heaven reflect attitudes characteristic of the societies from which these visions emerge. The thesis as a whole thereby calls attention to the broad and deep nature of the Visio genre’s impact on Western Scandinavian literary culture, suggesting that this particular genre-oriented study may serve as a case study of the reception of Christian literary traditions in medieval Iceland and Norway more generally.
Supervisor: O'Donoghue, Heather Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Germanic languages ; Literatures of Germanic languages ; Medieval Visions of the Afterlife ; Visiones ; Old Norse Literature