International community discusses ancient Nordic love and emotions in Tartu

On 27–29 January, the University of Tartu hosts the conference “Love and Emotions in Old Norse Literature”, which brings together leading experts from different parts of the world.

The ancient Nordic peoples have a reputation for being emotionally terse, stoic towards misfortunes and injuries, much more hardboiled fighters than sensitive lovers. This view is partly based on the image one might get from the medieval Icelandic sagas, where open emotional expressions or the depiction of inner feelings are indeed very rare, and instead violent feuds and terse dialogues are characteristic. For a long time, love and emotions belonged to the periphery of Old Norse scholarship. During the last decades, this has changed. Today, emotions in Old Norse literature constitute an active field of research. Old prejudices have been abandoned, new perspectives are used, and new conclusions have been reached. Emotional description is not absent in the sagas, it is just different from what we are used to. The love stories in the French romances were extremely popular in medieval Scandinavia and often translated. Love and emotional expression were common in the earliest Nordic poetry.  

At the conference, 22 scholars from 12 countries present their ongoing research in the field. Four keynote speakers have been invited: Prof. Alison Finlay (London), who speaks about love in the poets’ sagas, Prof. Sif Rikharðsottir (Iceland), who speaks about the concept of love in Old Norse literature, Prof. Klaus Johan Myrvoll (Stavanger), who speaks about love in Norse skaldic poetry, and Dr Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir (Cambridge), who speaks about the interaction of prose and verse in the emotional descriptions in the sagas. Speakers from Estonia include Urmas Sutrop, Raili Marling and Daniel Sävborg.

The aim of the event is to develop the research and the interest in ancient Nordic emotions and to develop contacts between scholars from different countries and academic fields. The organisers also hope that a wider audience will get more knowledge of the interesting fields of study of emotions and Old Norse literature.

The conference is organised by Daniel Sävborg, Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Tartu, who has previously published monographs on grief in Eddic poetry and on love in Old Nordic literature.

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