Harris, Joseph. Romancing the Rune

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  • Author: Harris, Joseph
  • Title: Romancing the Rune. Aspects of Literacy in Early Scandinavian Orality
  • Published in: Atti Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti
  • Series: Classe di Lettere Filosofia e Belle Arti 70
  • Place, Publisher: Messina: Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti
  • Year: 1994
  • Pages: 111–40
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Harris, Joseph. "Romancing the Rune. Aspects of Literacy in Early Scandinavian Orality." Atti Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti, pp. 111–40. Classe di Lettere Filosofia e Belle Arti 70. Messina: Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti, 1994.

  • Key words: poetry, orality, literary elements (kveðskapur, munnleg geymd, bókmenntaleg einkenni)


Contents

Annotation

In an earlier article entitled “Eddic Poetry as Oral Poetry” (published in 1983), Harris examined the applicability of oral-formulaic theory to eddic tradition. In this paper, he reviews and expands on his ideas concerning the orality of eddic poems before turning to skaldic traditions, arguing that there is a continuum between the two traditions. Skaldic poetry was an established art prior to the introduction of writing and continued to evolve as a tradition until the late Middle Ages. Skaldic poetry does not appear to be formulaic, but narratives describing its composition and performance indicate internal differences within the tradition and varying degrees of improvisation. The composition of Höfuðlausn in Egils saga, where the poet requires only half a night to complete his poem, is compared to a þáttr in which court poet Einar Skúlason improvises verses on very short notice. Harris points out, however, that skaldic poetry in general has many features of literary verse avant la lettre, and he suggests that the skald’s exposure to runic writing (and runic monuments in particular) may be one reason for this. Runes appear several times in Egils saga in various contexts, with a physical sense of language appearing at several points that indicates a possible “literate residue” in his oral poetry.

Lýsing

Í eldri grein, "Eddic Poetry as Oral Poetry" frá 1983, rannsakaði Harris það hvort nota mætti kenningar um formúlunotkun í munnlegri hefð til að varpa ljósi á eddukvæðahefðina. Í þessari ritgerð vinnur hann með sömu hugmyndir og beinir athyglinni að dróttkvæðahefðinni, enda séu þessar tvær hefðir skyldar. Dróttkvæðin höfðu unnið sér sess sem sjálfstætt listform fyrir daga ritlistarinnar og þau héldu áfram að þróast fram á síðmiðaldir. Þau virðast ekki formúlubundin en frásagnir sem lýsa sköpun og flutningi þeirra gefa til kynna að hefðin hafi rúmað tilbrigði og að þegar þau voru flutt hafi menn leikið svolítið af fingrum fram. Lýsing Eglu á því þegar Egill yrkir Höfuðlausn, og þarf ekki nema hálfa nótt til að ljúka við kvæðið, er borin saman við þátt þar sem hirðskáldið Einar Skúlason kastar fram kvæðum með afar stuttum fyrirvara. Harris bendir hins vegar á að dróttkvæðin hafi almennt mörg einkenni þess kveðskapar sem ritöldin fæddi af sér. Hann setur fram þá tilgátu að þekking skáldanna á rúnum (og rúnaristum, ekki síst) kunni að skýra þetta. Rúnum er lýst á nokkrum stöðum í Egils sögu, þar sem tungumálið er beinlínis gert áþreifanlegt, þar sem megi sjá bók-menntalegar leifar í hinum munnlega kveðskap skáldsins.

See also

References

Chapter 80: hlóð eg lofköst: "[I]n the concluding stanza Egill returns to the idea of language as a signal tower, a beacon on a high sea-cliff like Beowulf’s arrow ... Now Egill had not read Horace’s “monumentum aere perennius”; in fact there is no reason to believe that Egill had read anyone who did not write in runes, but the fame of Arinbjörn is here made equivalent to a monument of stone. And it is hard not to think of the conjunction of stone monument, written language, and fame that we know from some of the Swedish runestones." (p. 136-37).


Links

  • Written by: Katelin Parsons
  • Icelandic translation: Jón Karl Helgason
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