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Old Norse-Icelandic Literature A Short Introduction (Wiley Blackwell Introductions to Literature) [Paperback]

Heather O'Donoghue
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Price: 24.75 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

9 Dec 2003 Wiley Blackwell Introductions to Literature
From runic inscriptions to sagas, this book introduces readers to the colourful world of Old Norse–Icelandic literature. An introduction to the colourful world of Old Norse–Icelandic literature. Covers mythology and family sagas, as well as less well–known areas, such as oral story–telling, Eddaic verse and skaldic verse. An introduction helps readers to appreciate the language and culture of the first settlers in Iceland. Looks at the reception of Old–Norse–Icelandic literature over the ages, as views of the vikings have changed. Shows how a whole range of authors from Shakespeare to Seamus Heaney have been influenced by Old Norse–Icelandic literature.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (9 Dec 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631236260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631236269
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.1 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 683,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

From runic inscriptions to sagas, this book introduces readers to the colourful world of Old Norse–Icelandic literature. It covers not only mythology and family sagas, but also looks at less well–known areas, such as oral story–telling, Eddaic verse and skaldic verse. An introduction describing the language and culture of the first settlers in Iceland helps readers to appreciate the background against which this literature was produced. The book acts as an introduction not only to Old–Norse Icelandic literature, but also to its reception through the ages and its influence on literature written in English. The author shows how a whole range of authors from Chaucer to Seamus Heaney have been influenced by this body of work, pointing out that even King Lear and Hamlet appear in Old Norse texts.

About the Author

Heather O’Donoghue is Reader in Old Norse at Oxford University. She is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Iceland has no human prehistory. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive and infectious 3 Mar 2004
By Martin Turner HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Heather O'Donoghue's introduction to Icelandic and Old Norse is incisive and infectious. She makes everything interesting, because she finds everything interesting. In my opinion, this book is an almost ideal combination of detailed scholarship with captivating presentation. It makes a compelling case for the subject.
Iceland - O'Donoghue points out - was a country entirely without pre-history. Its history is therefore entirely the history of life after the settlement, and of northern Europe before. The complex interweaving of myth, poetry, saga, religion and half-remembered chronicling is therefore the stuff from which this book is made.
I would recommend this book to the general reader willing to be fascinated by Old Norse. However, it comes into its own for anyone setting out to study Icelandic at the undergraduate level.
For myself, it brings back vividly winter mornings in Heather O'Donaghue's study: her enthusiasm drew me deeper into the subject then, and this book does the same for me today.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a useful tool 5 July 2009
By Furio
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As an amateur linguist interested in ancient Germanic languages and cultures I took up this book to revise my knowledge of Icelandic literary output.

This short book has been written by a competent academic and it has an academic approach to the topic: I can see its worth for an undergraduate student very well, while a general educated reader might -just might- find Dr O'Donoghue approach a little dull: her writing is not witty, nor meant to be such, and requires therefore a little dedication.

That said she summarizes -the book is barely over 200 pages, bibliography included- the context of Norse literature development in Iceland and outlines the genres of Norse-Icelandic literature, keeping its relationship with the continental one clear but distinct and short.
In the second half of the book she analizes the influence of Norse-Icelandic literature on some relevant English -especially modern- writers.

This makes this work useful to both students of philology and English literature: translations are provided everywhere together with careful explanations aimed at those who do not understand Norse.
Then again this book is not meant to be an anthology nor a literature history: it is just a short introduction to its appreciation as clearly stated in the title.

This most useful read has some minor flaws, at least to my eyes.

The philological introduction is very clear but also very short: I assume English literature students who probably will never read linguistics handbooks could have welcomed a more extensive introduction to the history of the language.

While the author's conciseness is nearly always a good thing it is hardly so in the pages dedicated to skaldic poetry which looked a bit hurried and not always clear.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a useful tool 5 July 2009
By Furio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As an amateur linguist interested in ancient Germanic languages and cultures I took up this book to revise my knowledge of Icelandic literary output.

This short book has been written by a competent academic and it has an academic approach to the topic: I can see its worth for an undergraduate student very well, while a general educated reader might -just might- find Dr O'Donoghue approach a little dull: her writing is not witty, nor meant to be such, and requires therefore a little dedication.

That said she summarizes -the book is barely over 200 pages, bibliography included- the context of Norse literature development in Iceland and outlines the genres of Norse-Icelandic literature, keeping its relationship with the continental one clear but distinct and short.
In the second half of the book she analizes the influence of Norse-Icelandic literature on some relevant English -especially modern- writers.

This makes this work useful to both students of philology and English literature: translations are provided everywhere together with careful explanations aimed at those who do not understand Norse.
Then again this book is not meant to be an anthology nor a literature history: it is just a short introduction to its appreciation as clearly stated in the title.

This most useful read has some minor flaws, at least to my eyes.

The philological introduction is very clear but also very short: I assume English literature students who probably will never read linguistics handbooks could have welcomed a more extensive introduction to the history of the language.

While the author's conciseness is nearly always a good thing it is hardly so in the pages dedicated to skaldic poetry which looked a bit hurried and not always clear.

While distantiation from the topic may be good in general, especially to avoid baking ready made conclusions for the lazy student, I would have welcomed a more personal and identifiable interpretation of the literary works. Such interpretation might have been singled out typographically if the author was so unwilling to influence her reader.

Last but not least a bit of summarizing at the end of each chapter would probably have made life easier to undergraduates, even the non lazy ones.
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