ENGL3207 Shieldmaidens, Matriarchs and Monsters: Women in Medieval Scandinavian Literature

Reading List
  • Taught: Semester 1
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 10
  • Module Manager: Dr Alaric Hall
  • Email: a.t.p.hall@leeds.ac.uk
  • Pre-Requisite Qualifications: Please note: This module is restricted to Level 2 and 3 students. Enrolment priority will be given to Level 2 students for a restricted period (as detailed in the School’s Module Handbook).
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

Medieval Europe was a patriarchal place, but medieval Scandinavians loved reading about powerful women. On this module, we’ll ask why—and at the same time use the theme as a platform to explore a range of different types of medieval literature. Why were Marie de France’s lais among the first texts to be translated into Norwegian, and how were they received? Who listened to romances like that of Sigrgarðr, a hero who is constantly outwitted and humiliated by the maiden king whom he seeks to woo? The strong-willed women who—saga-writers soberly tell us—settled Iceland are curiously reminiscent of the warrior-maidens of legendary poetry. Did women’s lives imitate poets’ art, did art imitate life, or is this entirely a world of fantasy? Why were myths of grumpy goddesses and giantesses still retold centuries after Scandinavians converted to Christianity? And how did Scandinavians respond to Christian ideals of womanhood?
We read most texts in translation, but you’ll also learn to read and analyse the texts in the original Old Icelandic and to bring original-language study into your essays. No previous experience of language- learning is expected or required.

Objectives

  • - To learn to engage with medieval Icelandic sources in the original language
  • - To develop understandings of the roles of literature in the construction of gender
  • - To explore the gender structure of a society very different from our own.

Syllabus

Medieval Europe was a patriarchal place, but medieval Scandinavians loved reading about powerful women. On this module, we’ll ask why—and at the same time use the theme as a platform to explore a range of different types of medieval literature. Why were Marie de France’s lais among the first texts to be translated into Norwegian, and how were they received? Who listened to romances like that of Sigrgarðr, a hero who is constantly outwitted and humiliated by the maiden king whom he seeks to woo? The strong-willed women who—saga-writers soberly tell us—settled Iceland are curiously reminiscent of the warrior-maidens of legendary poetry. Did women’s lives imitate poets’ art, did art imitate life, or is this entirely a world of fantasy? Why were myths of grumpy goddesses and giantesses still retold centuries after Scandinavians converted to Christianity? And how did Scandinavians respond to Christian ideals of womanhood?
We read most texts in translation, but you’ll also learn to read and analyse the texts in the original Old Icelandic and to bring original-language study into your essays. No previous experience of language- learning is expected or required.

Learning Outcomes

Students will have developed:

  • - skills in language-learning
  • - skills in engaging meaningfully with texts in unfamiliar foreign languages
  • - a good understanding of the full range of Old Norse literary genres
  • - critical awareness of gender issues and their study

Skills Outcomes

  • - Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
  • - Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
  • - Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
  • - Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
  • - Critical reasoning.
  • - Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
  • - IT skills.
  • - Time management and organisational skills.

Independent learning.

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching

Coursework

Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 2,250 words 50
Essay 2,250 words 50
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 100

Private Study

Reading, preparation for seminars, essay writing and take-home translation exam.

Progress Monitoring

  • - Seminar contribution
  • - 1st assessed essay.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Workshop 5 1 5
Seminar 10 1 10
Private Study Hours 185
Total Contact Hours 15
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

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