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Introduction

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Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

In medieval Icelandic secular prose, female characters function as literary vehicles to engage with some of the most contested values of the period, revealing the preoccupations, desires, and anxieties of its authors and audi-ences; chief among these concerns are women’s access to and employment of power, and men’s vulnerability. Old Norse sources offer their audiences many discrete and varied female images: women of various social and economic positions and racial origins. In this book, I analyze an extensive and diverse gallery of female images: elegant queens who keep their foolish husbands in check; wise, learned, and accomplished but haughty female rulers; scheming and disobedient princesses; and impoverished women who know a magic spell or two. We will also encounter man-eating stepmothers; benevolent stepmothers; monstrously ugly and hostile giantesses; princesses turned into hags by enchantment; resourceful widows; giantesses forsaken and left heartbroken by their human lovers; prophetesses who predict misfortune; neurotic housewives; and awe-inspiring female warriors.

Keywords

Female Character Female Image Racial Origin Gender Hierarchy Human Lover 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. For a recent introduction to Old Norse myth and religion, see Christopher Abram, Myths of the Pagan North: The Gods of the Norsemen (London: Continuum, 2011).Google Scholar
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  24. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990).Google Scholar
  25. Reading “against the grain" is an approach, originally advanced by feminist literary theorists in the 1970s and ‘80s, which entails deconstructing the fundamental ideology, in this instance a patriarchal social organization, that the narrator or text presents as normative; see for example, Judith Fetterley, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
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© Jóhanna Katrin Friðriksdóttir 2013

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