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Expanded Course Description
This course will be a critical evaluation of the religious beliefs in Scandinavia from prehistory through the Viking Age. We will examine very thoroughly three mythological texts, The Edda, The Prose Edda, and Ynglinga saga. The provenance of these texts reveals a cross-section of the collision of religious cultures during the period under critical examination. Since writing came to the Scandinavian peninsula with Christianity, so each of these texts serve as both available source material for the study of pre-Christian religious beliefs and practices, and as examples of the Christian interpretation of these beliefs and practices. It follows that we will analyze both linguistic and non-linguistic material to supplement and to facilitate our study of these primary sources of Norse mythology; i.e. we will make use of archeological source materials, Indo-European data and Scandinavian folklore and belief.
This course satisfies both the Arts and Letters and International Culture requirements. Throughout the course the students will be encouraged to broaden their understanding of the primary materials by being introduced to many of the scholarly debates and trends of the field. It introduces students to the methods that can be used for the analysis of mythology and for the understanding of historical belief systems. As writing came with the conversion to Christianity, the texts under consideration provide a rather interesting methodological opportunity. Firstly, the texts under consideration were written by Christians and purport to reconstruct an oral poetic corpus of pagan origin and to interpret it. This allows for the student to learn how to reconstruct cultural belief systems different than her own while studying historical examples of how this process works. Secondly, the study of Norse mythology is an inter-disciplinary endeavor that involves religious studies, anthropology, textual analysis, and history. Since this will introduce the student to a variety of skills and approaches and enable her to learn how to address a variety of belief systems, the course satisfies the General Education Arts and Letters requirement. This course also has international implications as it surveys the pre-Christian beliefs and practices of Scandinavia. There are no pre-requisites.