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University of Oslo

The Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oslo offers wide-ranging expertise in many aspects of the programme. Its particular strengths lie in philology, poetics and medieval grammatical literature, runology, medieval literacy, palaeography and codicology (material philology), Viking age archeology, medieval art (book illumination, ecclesiastical art), and Anglo-Norse and Celtic-Norse relations.

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

Professor Karl-Gunnar Johansson
Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies

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

NFI4100— Runology – general introduction (10 ECTS; Autumn 2015)
Runology is concerned with some 1300 years of history of writing. Runes constituted the script used by many Germanic peoples from the second century A.D. Their use died out in Norway around 1400. This course spans the entire history of runes and gives an overview of both the secondary literature and the inscriptions themselves. There will be a special focus on how to deal with the inteplay between data (the runes) and theory (about the development of writing).

NFI4112 — Old Norse Rhetoric and Poetics in a European Context  (10 ECTS; Autumn 2015)
An  introduction to Old Norse rhetorics and poetics – grammatica – in Iceland between c. 1150 to 1400. The course will also provide a European background for the medieval study of grammatica as well as rhetorical and poetical praxis. The European tradition will be studied in translations from the Latin sources. A major focus will be on the relation between the introduction of European traditions and the Old Norse poetical traditions.

KUN4305E — Inside the medieval church: the church room and its decoration in medieval Scandinavia (10 ECTS; Autumn 2015)
The course will deal with various aspects of church interiors in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages. Issues that will be covered are: the spatial organization of the church room as a setting for the liturgy, as exemplified in the various types of churches that were raised during the Middle Ages; the history of decoration of the church interior – materials and motives from the 12th to the 15th century; iconographical case studies, focusing on the multiple dimensions of meaning of medieval church art. An underlying perspective will consist of a historiographical survey of the development of art historical scholarship on the art of the Scandinavian Middle Ages and a consideration of its theoretical and methodological foundations.

HIS4133 — The Cult of Saints in Norway and Iceland, c. 950-1250  (10 ECTS; Autumn 2015)
The cult of saints was a central part of the Christian faith in the Middle Ages. It became an important part of conversion and arguably the single most important aspect of Christianity for common people, with saints able to intercede and protect people through miracles in a way that the Norse gods could not. By dying the saints were thought to reach a place of vicinity to God and were therefore in a favorable position for interceding with God on behalf of the living. Thus one thought that the saints were functioning as intermediary links between God and the humans, and that they especially could be turned to in suffering and need.

The saints and their relics were to be treated in a respectful manner. If one failed to do so the wrath of the saints could be cast upon you. On the other hand, the saints had to prove to be worthy of being invoked. If some saints seemed to be less powerful than others, one would stop praying to the former. The saints therefore had to constantly prove their powerfulness or risking that their cult disappeared. As a result the cult of saints was constantly changing.

These are amongst the aspects of the cult of saints in Norway and Iceland that this course will address. In addition we will also compare the development of the cult of saints in Norway and Iceland to other parts of Western Europe.

ENG4154 — Old English, Introduction (10 ECTS; Autumn 2015)
Ann introduction to English as it was before the Norman Conquest (1066), that is, to one of the early Germanic languages. For the first half of the semester, students will work through Duncan Macrae-Gibson's "Learning Old English" (an interactive audio course, with written exercises to be discussed in class). This provides a step-by-step guide through the grammar set out in Sweet's "Anglo-Saxon Primer". The second half of the semester will be devoted to a study of texts in Sweet's "Primer", nos. I, IV, V, VI, and VIIb. These will afford some insight into the literature and history of England at a time with variously close links with Scandinavia. You will gain insight into the contents mentioned above in a manner to ensure your ability to perform simple analyses of Old English texts. Further, the course will lay the ground for studies of Old English on MA-level.

FIL4560 — History of philosophy from 600 BC until the 17th century (10 ECTS; Autumn 2015)
The topics of the course are works/epochs/schools/ideas in the history of philosophy from around 600 BC until the Renaissance. Texts and focus may vary, but important names will be Heraklit, Parmenides, Sokrates, Platon, Aristoteles, hellenistic philosophers, neo-platonists, Augustin, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, Ockham, Montaigne and Galieo. The aim is to give the participants an in depth understanding of philosophical problems from this period and to show their relevance for later discussions.

Other courses offered in recent years include:

ENG4160 — Language and Settlement in Britain, ca. 200-1000 A.D (10 ECTS; Autumn 2014)
An introductory course which examines the various colonisations of that part of Britain which became England, from the late Romano-British period into the Anglo-Norman era; the story is dominated by the Anglo-Saxon and Norse settlements, and the Norman Conquest, but Frisian and Flemish also enter the narrative, which will of necessity consider other parts of the British Isles. The course will examine texts, the evidence of place-names, and to some extent archaeological evidence; source criticism will be an important part of the survey.

HIS4140 — Objects and Identities in the Viking Age (c. 750—c. 1050) (10 ECTS; Autumn 2014)
This interdisciplinary course deals with the social history of the Viking Age, with an emphasis on mainland Scandinavia and its interactions with neighboring countries from c. 750 to c. 1050. In this period, Scandinavia was characterized by a high degree of social mobility and profound socio-political changes. The Scandinavian emigration of the ninth and tenth centuries left noticeable imprints on adjacent regions such as Carolingian Francia, Anglo-Saxon England, the North Atlantic and Eastern Europe. The political and religious impacts of Ottonian Germany, Anglo-Saxon England, early Rus’ and Byzantium on tenth- and eleventh-century Scandinavia were equally im-portant. The first part of the course will provide a general introduction to the histori-cal period. In the second part of the course, the traditional social categories of identity (ethnicity, religion, social status, and gender) will be applied to the world of multiple identities in Viking Age Scandinavia. The final part of the course will be focused on several material objects that functioned as important symbolic markers of identities and will exemplify the use of material evidence in Viking Age studies.

KUN4306E — Art and visual culture of the later Middle Ages (10 ECTS; Autumn 2014)
In the course, the art of the later Middle Ages from c. 1300 to the 1530s will be studied from a perspective where the art works are seen as manifestations of the visual culture of the period. Rather than approaching them as works of art in the conventional sense, the course will focus on the manner in which the objects have made sense to their original beholders by virtue of the visual and material qualities that constitute their essential characteristics. Medieval theories of vision, visuality and materiality will be reviewed, and the perception, reception and use of images in various cultic settings as well as in secular contexts, will be studied.


  • Old Norse — language and texts (10 ECTS)
  • Old Norse Paleography, Codicology and Medieval Manuscript Culture (10 ECTS)
  • England’s Viking Inheritance (10 ECTS)
  • Language and Settlement in England, ca. 400–1200 A.D. (10 ECTS)
  • The Poetic Edda — from Orality to Literacy (10 ECTS)