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


This book has analyzed female characters in a much wider range of texts than previous studies have attempted. Naturally it was, and is, important to examine the canon and its dominant images, and previous studies have produced compelling analysis that has furthered our understanding of Old Norse—Icelandic images of women, but the intense critical focus on the “classical” Íslendingasögur and the female inciter in the past has led to other, arguably more representative, and certainly more varied, female characters having gone unnoticed and unexplored. The wider textual scope of this book, which examines not only canonical works from traditionally more privileged genres but also the rich corpus of the popular but critically side-lined fornaldarsögur and rίddarasögur, has sought to add to our knowledge and understanding of Old Norse—Icelandic literature by yielding new insights about the relationship between gender and power across genres. First, it has highlighted the many female characters who diverge from the critical ste-reotype of the “medieval Icelandic heroine” who is typically strong willed, proud, and uncompromising in matters of honor. Second, it has challenged previous scholarship’s oversimplistic understanding of the literary presentation of women’s power as aggressive and linked to violence, arguing instead that female characters who wield power, whether using verbal strategies or magic, often use their power constructively rather than destructively for peaceful ends, and with the aim of preserving the community and its status quo.


Gender Role Female Character Female Image Medieval Period Literary Culture 
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© Jóhanna Katrin Friðriksdóttir 2013

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