Book Section
Brian McMahon

Speech-Wrangling

Shutting Up and Shutting Out the Oral Tradition in Some Icelandic Sagas
This chapter considers the role of prolegomena and authorial interventions in constraining and contextualizing orally derived saga narratives in high medieval Iceland. It examines the question of whether prolegomena were intended to be included in oral renditions of the sagas and, if so, in whose ‘voice’ they were understood to be spoken. The ‘openness’ of a saga text — the extent of editorial freedom enjoyed by those concerned with extracting it from the oral milieu — has been much discussed; however, less attention has historically been paid to the freedom which the written texts then afforded any would-be reciter for emending or adapting their content when reading them aloud to a live audience. Prolegomena provide our most instructive source of contemporary commentary on how the written sagas should be understood and transmitted, and they therefore represent distinct and important critical texts in their own right, which inform our understanding of how ‘open’ or ‘fixed’ medieval Icelanders understood these extant written sagas to be.
Title
Speech-Wrangling
Subtitle
Shutting Up and Shutting Out the Oral Tradition in Some Icelandic Sagas
Author(s)
Brian McMahon
Identifier
DOI Target
HTML Page
Description
This chapter considers the role of prolegomena and authorial interventions in constraining and contextualizing orally derived saga narratives in high medieval Iceland. It examines the question of whether prolegomena were intended to be included in oral renditions of the sagas and, if so, in whose ‘voice’ they were understood to be spoken. The ‘openness’ of a saga text — the extent of editorial freedom enjoyed by those concerned with extracting it from the oral milieu — has been much discussed; however, less attention has historically been paid to the freedom which the written texts then afforded any would-be reciter for emending or adapting their content when reading them aloud to a live audience. Prolegomena provide our most instructive source of contemporary commentary on how the written sagas should be understood and transmitted, and they therefore represent distinct and important critical texts in their own right, which inform our understanding of how ‘open’ or ‘fixed’ medieval Icelanders understood these extant written sagas to be.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
April 19, 2022
Subject
oral tradition
prologues
epilogues
authority
recitation
Old Norse
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Harvested
yes
Language
en-GB
short title
Speech-Wrangling
page start
65
page end
84
Source
Openness in Medieval Europe, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati and Almut Suerbaum, Cultural Inquiry, 23 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2022), pp. 65–84