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University of Copenhagen

The Department of Scandinavian Research offers wide-ranging expertise in the many subject areas covered by the programme, including Old Danish and Old Swedish. The Arnamagnæan Institute houses half of the Arnamagnæan manuscript collection and also has an excellent research library. The Institute staff will provide advice and training for students, especially in the fields of manuscript studies and artefactual philology, textual criticism and scholarly editing, and textual and literary history. The Name Research section offers expertise in onomastics, runology and Anglo-Norse studies. The Arnamagnæan Institute also hosts the Dictionary of Old Norse Prose project, whose resources will be available to students. 

The Viking and Medieval Norse Studies programme is represented at the University of Copenhagen by:

Associate Professor Anne Mette Hansen
Department of Nordic Research

Course offerings vary from one year to another. These are some of the courses that have been offered in recent years:

East Norse. Texts and artefacts (15 ECTS)

Instructors: Anne Mette Hansen, Michael Lerche Nielsen, Rikke Steenholt Olesen, Guus Kroonen, Beeke Stegmann

This course is an introduction to runic and medieval East Norse language and literature.The course offers a chance to study East Norse texts in the original language, reading a range of Old Swedish and Old Danish texts representing Scandinavian genres as well as rewritings and adaptations of European works, such as inscriptions on stones and loose objects, provincial laws, chronicles, anthologies of instructional texts, legends and devotional books. The course presents an overview of the history of the East Norse languages from the Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages dealing with the following topics: the linguistic developments from Proto Norse to East Scandinavia, the emergence of East Scandinavian runic dialects, the runic lexicon, a description of the morphology and syntax of Old Swedish (c. 1225 – 1526) and Old Danish (c. 1100 – c. 1525). The course includes field trips to runic locations in Denmark and Southern Sweden. As the majority of the texts to be read are preserved in manuscripts located in the Arnamagnæan Collection in Copenhagen students will get hands-on practice in reading, examining and describing manuscripts. Participants (who need no prior experience with East Norse) will learn to read the runic alphabets and how to transliterate runic inscriptions. They will learn how to read and translate diplomatic (un-normalized) representations of texts in East Norse and will be able to identify Old Swedish and Old Danish texts respectively and to characterize the texts as regards syntax and style. They will get an overview of the usage of runes from the Iron Age to the High Middle Ages in Southern Scandinavia and of East Norse texts and manuscripts. They will gain basic knowledge of East Norse paleography and the codicology of the medieval book.

The Icelandic fornaldarsögur and early historiography: origin, transmission, reception (15 ECTS)

Instructors: Annette Lassen, Tereza Lansing, Gottskálk Jensson, Beeke Stegmann

The group of Icelandic sagas known as fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda, literally ‘Stories of the northern lands in ancient times’, deal with the kings and heroes of mainland Scandinavia before the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century. Although they date, in their present form, predominantly from the 14th and 15th centuries, and are thus younger than the ‘classical’ Icelandic family sagas, most have at least some basis in significantly older tradition, and many of the characters and events depicted in them are found also in other sources, both in Old Norse and other languages. Saxo Grammaticus used them – or something like them – as a source for his Gesta Danorum, written in the 13th century, and many have echoes in the Scandinavian ballad tradition. The fornaldarsögur were among the most popular of saga genres, and are preserved in hundreds of manuscripts, the majority post-medieval paper manuscripts, some from as late as the early 20th century. Most are also found in metrical versions known as rímur, some from the middle ages, but the bulk from the 18th and 19th centuries. The fornaldarsögur were also among the earliest saga texts to be printed and translated (in the 17th and 18th centuries into Latin and Swedish, in the 19th into Danish, German and English), and they were also a source of inspiration for poets, writers and artists throughout northern Europe, e.g. Tegnér and Wagner.

The course will analyse this material, starting with Saxo and working through the fornaldarasögur themselves, employing methods deriving not only from traditional textual and literary criticism, but also newer areas such as material philology and the history of transmission.

Other courses offered in recent years include:

  • The Nordic Languages in the Medieval Period (15 ECTS)

  • Old Icelandic (15 ECTS)

  • Old Swedish and Danish (15 ECTS)

  • Old-Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture (15 ECTS)

  • Applied linguistic data for cultural history (15 ECTS)

  • Primary sources and philological methodology (15 ECTS)

  • History of Scandinavian philology (15 ECTS)

  • Scandinavian Manuscript Studies (7.5 ECTS)

  • Runology (15 ECTS)

  • Onomastics (15 ECTS)