Clover, Carol J.. Regardless of sex

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  • Author: Clover, Carol J.
  • Title: Regardless of sex: men, women, and power in early Northern Europe
  • Published in: Speculum 68/2
  • Year: 1993
  • Pages: 363-387
  • E-text: JSTOR
  • Reference: Clover, Carol J.. "Regardless of sex: men, women, and power in early Northern Europe." Speculum 68/2 (1993): 363-87.

  • Key words: gender studies, social reality (kynjafræði, samfélagsmynd)



The article deals with the topic of gender roles (de jure and de facto) and their manifestations in Norse literature. The author claims that, despite the prevailing one-sex social system, the role of each gender was a matter of social status rather than biological sex. Clover also shows how transition from one gender role to another is possible, using examples from Egil’s Saga, among others. In his old age Egil seems to acquire features that are traditionally assigned to women and thus belong to the sphere of women (innan stokks).


Greinin fjallar um kynhlutverk (de jure og de facto) og birtingarmynd þeirra í norrænnum bókmenntum fyrri alda. Höfundurinn heldur því fram að kynhlutverk fari eftir félagsstöðu viðkomandi frekar en líffræðilegu kyni. Þar að auki tekur hún dæmi um mögulega færslu milli kynhlutverka, meðal annars úr Egils sögu. Egill er á efri árum talinn að hafa tileinkað sér eiginleika sem venjulega einkenna konur og þess vegna tilheyra heimi kvenna (innan stokks).

See also


Chapter 80: tungu að hræra: "Sonattorek itself opens with a complaint about the difficulty of it’s erection [...] and although there is no question of an overt sexual or marital meaning here, the wider system of tongue/sword/penis correspondences invites us to just such associations, which serve in turn to confirm our sense that this poem stems from a very point very far down gender scale – a point at which sword and penis have given away to the tongue, and even the tongue may not be up to the task" (p. 16).

Chapter 88: Blaut erumst: "Egill states the equation in pithy half-stanza lamenting the effects of age [...]. The line in question translates something like: "soft is the bore of the foot/leg of taste/pleasure", the bore referring to tongue if one takes bergis fótar to mean "head", but to penis if one takes the kenning to mean "leg of limb of pleasure". [...] One has in this five-word verse the full cord: when not only one’s sword and penis go limp but also one’s tongue, life is pretty much over" (p. 16).


  • Written by: Roberta Soparaite
  • English translation: Roberta Soparaite
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