Speakers & Abstracts

Dr. Pernille Hermann

Pernille Hermann is Associate Professor of Scandinavian literature at Aarhus University and Adjunct Professor at the University of Iceland. Her research interest centres on Old Norse literature and culture, and her research addresses such areas as literary criticism and theory in the Middle Ages, orality and literacy, memory culture, genre and human geography. Currently, her main research focus is on memory and Old Norse literature.

Mnemonic Spaces in Old Norse Literature

Many parts of Old Norse-Icelandic literature of the 13th and 14th centuries are immensely preoccupied with spatial anchoring of the narratives, and both the landscape and man-made spaces are foregrounded in sagas and myths. This talk will investigate this spatial interest of the literature from the perspective of memory; The medieval Norse texts will be approached and understood from ideas about memory deriving from the Classical world, e.g., from such notion as artificial memory and memoria, as well as from more recently developed theoretical concepts, such as collective and cultural memory.

The focus of the talk will be on mnemonic spaces in the sagas (especially sagas of Icelanders, such as Njáls saga, Egils saga, and Gísla Saga Súrssonar), as well as in myths (Snorra Edda, Lokasenna and Grímnismál). It will be discussed how spatial anchoring can be connected to mnemonic techniques, such as the method of loci, used by the saga-authors; and how mnemonic spaces offer important background structures that serve as organising narrative units. There is not explicit and formal treatment of memory in the Old Norse literary corpus, but – as it will be argued in the talk – the medieval authors seem to have reflected on memory and its relevance in a nascent culture of writing. Also, the talk will address the function of spaces for collective and cultural memory. The focus of the talk will mainly be on man-made spatial constructions, such as buildings and their interior.

Dr. Dagmar Schlüter

Dagmar has studied Celtic Studies, German and English Literature in Marburg and Limerick. She holds an M.A. and a Dr. phil. from Philipps-Universität Marburg. Her Ph.D. thesis was published in 2010 as History or Fable? The Book of Leinster as a Document of Cultural Memory in Twelfth-Century Ireland (Münster: Nodus, 2010). She has lectured in Marburg, Glasgow and Heidelberg and is currently combining maternal leave with writing academic papers and pursuing a degree in economics.

Dáig is memuir lim-sa: Space and memory in the dindshenchas and related texts 

The dindshenchas (“history of places”) with its connection between actual spots on a map and cultural memory just seems to be the ideal genre when discussing the nexus between space and memory in medieval memory. Closer examination, however, shows, that this genre is beset with a number of difficulties. First of all, what exactly does belong to this genre? Is it just poems and prose about the origins of a specific place name or would we equally allow those pieces that narrate the later history of a specific place to the canon? And, following from that, is the dindshenchas an aetiological genre or is it more historically orientated than has been assumed previously? And how many recensions of the dindshenchas do we actually have?

While much research on the connection between space and memory has quite rightly focussed on the theoretical works by Pierre Nora and Aleida Assmann, it must not be forgotten that the intimate connection between those two concepts stems from antique and medieval theories of thought. I have noted elsewhere that this is particularly important in conjunction with the dindshenchas. But could these concepts also help us to solve the questions addressed above?

In a recent publication1 Morgan T. Davies has suggested to apply yet another concept of medieval mnemonic theory the dindshenchas, namely that of undertaking a ductus (making a mental journey) to. While I have argued that this concept may only be applicable to specific recensions of the genre, I think that for those recensions where it can be applied, it offers up a new fascinating approach for our understanding of a genre that has frequently been underestimated in the past. In order to strengthen my own interpretation of a connection between medieval mnemonic theory and medieval Irish literature, I want to test whether the concept of ductus is also applicable to other works of medieval Irish literature.

Max Quaintmere M.A.

Max Quaintmere is currently completing a Ph.D. at the University of Glasgow on the theme of memory and the learned classes of medieval Ireland. His primary academic interest is the study of medieval Irish and Welsh literature in its social and historical contexts. Previous degrees include M.St. in Celtic Studies at the University of Oxford and M.A. in Celtic Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

“I am learned in Ireland’s feasts and in her raids, in her destructions and in her wooings, in all of them that might have happened since the Flood to the present”: Memory, Authority and the Resolving of Distance in the Suidigud Tellaig Temra.

Any literature that aims to access and present the knowledge of the past inevitably has to overcome the problem of distance. This is especially true of medieval Irish literature with its deep well of material depicting events of contemporary relevance, both historical and cultural, from the recent and more remote past. Using the tale known as Suidigud Tellaig Temra, ‘The Settling of the Manor of Tara’, as an entry point, but also referring to a range of other material including amongst others Acallam na Senórach, De Faillsigud Tána Bó Cuailnge and Síaburcharpat Con Culaind, this paper aims to explore how medieval Irish learned culture sought to bridge the distance between past and present. The importance and role of Memory, as well as the failure of Memory, in these attempts to access the past will be the principal focus of this discussion. The conclusions of this exploration will provide clarity on the key question of where memory stands as a component for scholarly authority in medieval Ireland. The subjects covered here will set the ground for a productive dialogue on how medieval Irish literature conceptualises and, through the medium of memory, overcomes the temporal space between the worlds that it constructs and the contemporary.

Dr. des. Sarah Künzler

Sarah studied interdisciplinary medieval studies at the Universität Zürich und completed her PhD there in 2015. Her thesis was published by De Gruyter (Trends in Medieval Philology 31) in 2016 as Flesh and Word: Reading Bodies in Early Irish and Old Norse-Icelandic Literature. She is currently engaged in an early post-doc research project at Trinity College Dublin and resident in the Trinity Long Room Hub. The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and examines the workings of cultural memory in early Irish literature.

Set in Stone: Mnemonic Aspects of Ogam Stones in Early Irish Saga

The monumental and apparently eternal nature of stone monuments has attracted considerable attention from archaeological and memory studies perspectives in recent years, yet few studies have yet examined the literary representations of such monuments in medieval texts. This paper examines the representations of ogam stones in a variety of saga texts and tries to outline the mnemonic functions and aspects which are connected to ogam inscribed pillar stones in the texts. The aim is a twofold one: to explore the importance of the stones within the textual world, but also to investigate what cultural meaning these representations could have held for the medieval mind. This investigation will draw heavily on ideas about the role of monuments within cultural memory and ask if these literary monuments could reflect medieval ideas about ‘places of remembering’ in which memory crystalizes and manifests cultural continuity and identity.