Snorri Sturluson and the Edda

Snorri Sturluson and the Edda: The Conversion of Cultural Capital in Medieval Scandinavia

KEVIN J. WANNER
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442689152
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  • Book Info
    Snorri Sturluson and the Edda
    Book Description:

    Wanner brings us a new account of the interests that motivated the production of the Edda, and resolves the mystery of its genesis by demonstrating the intersection of Snorri's political and cultural concerns and practices.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8915-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 The Paradox of Snorri Sturluson
    (pp. 3-15)

    Snorri Sturluson has long proven a paradoxical figure for those who think and write about medieval Norse culture. Many scholars believe that a satisfactory understanding of Snorri and his work will only be possible once the contradictions that surround this most famous of medieval Icelanders have been resolved. Anthony Faulkes, editor and translator of Snorri’sEdda, writes:

    Snorri Sturluson is the only medieval Icelandic author about whom we have sufficient biographical information and by whom a sufficient range of writings survives for it to be possible to write a comprehensive book about the author and hisœuvre. There have, however,...

  5. 2 Snorra saga Sturlusonar: A Short Biography of Snorri Sturluson
    (pp. 16-29)

    While he has long been the most famous Icelander of the Middle Ages, there is no saga dedicated to Snorri Sturluson (although his father has one, and even his nephew gets aþáttr). It is therefore up to us to assemble an account of his life from available sources. Mostly, we depend on information provided by Snorri’s nephew Sturla Þórðarson (1214–84) in hisÍslendinga saga, which in the course of describing the period of internal feuding leading up to Iceland’s loss of independence in 1262–4 narrates the major events of Snorri’s life, from his birth in 1179 to...

  6. 3 Snorri at Home: Converting Capital in Commonwealth Iceland
    (pp. 30-52)

    As chapter 2 made clear, Snorri was throughout his life committed to gaining power and influence in the political arenas of Iceland and Norway. While this chapter focuses on Snorri’s domestic practice, it must be borne in mind that he was active and invested in two overlapping arenas wherein different forms of capital, only some of which were transferable from one arena to the other, were effective. Of these forms, two in particular, both of which can be treated as varieties of cultural/linguistic capital, are critical to an examination of Snorri’s practice: in Iceland, this was legal capital, and in...

  7. 4 Snorri Abroad: Icelandic Exploitation of Cultural Capital
    (pp. 53-73)

    In the fall of 1218, Snorri Sturluson was arguably Iceland’s most powerful citizen. His only true rival for several years had been his foster-brother, Sæmundr Jónsson, but Snorri’s defeat of theallsherjargoðiand his Oddaverjar backers at the 1217alþingdid much to tilt the balance of power in his favour. That Snorri chose to visit Norway at a time when his pre-eminence in Iceland was newly won and vulnerable seems at first a surprising move. It is well, however, to recall the aid provided Snorri at thealþingby the troop of eighty Norwegians, a wellspring of support that...

  8. 5 A Poet in Search of an Audience: The Diminishing Prestige-Value of Skaldic Poetry
    (pp. 74-93)

    The newly appointedlendr maðrSnorri Sturluson returned to Iceland in his new ship, laden with gifts from jarl Skúli andfrúKristín, in the fall of 1220. As Sturla relates, news of Snorri’s ‘arrival spread quickly inland and he was received with all kinds of honours.’¹ Already the man with the ‘greatest’ honour in Iceland when he departed in 1218, Snorri had taken his resources and practices into a new market, the Norwegian court, where he had effected a conversion of cultural into material capital, which was then reconverted into symbolic capital upon his homecoming. And yet, Snorri failed...

  9. 6 Háttatal: Beginning and End of the Edda
    (pp. 94-118)

    It has long been recognized that theEddais first and foremost a treatise on skaldic verse. In the words of Elias Wessén, ‘the Edda as a whole is a manual on the art of poetry. It is this object which has determined its contents and composition. The Edda contains precisely what in Snorri’s opinion a native skald required to know so as to be able to practice his art in a proper manner: mythology, stylistics, and metrics.’¹ While most scholars today would still accept Wessén’s judgment, there has been a growing determination in recent decades to move beyond this...

  10. 7 Skáldskaparmál: Salvaging the Market for Skaldic Verse
    (pp. 119-139)

    In composingHáttatal, Snorri’s aspirations were undoubtedly little different from those motivating his and others’ prior panegyrics: to convert a distinguished cultural product into symbolic and material profits. ThatHáttatalhad, however, to pursue this end under less favourable conditions than its forebears is attested by the work’s extravagant length, hyperbolic praise, and overblown claims for its own worth. Almost everything about Snorri’s poem is scaled to compensate for, or deny, the fact that skaldic verse was no longer the most indemand cultural good in the medieval north. But ifHáttatalwas a direct and sometimes blunt attempt to insist...

  11. 8 Gylfaginning and Formáli: Myth, History, and Theology
    (pp. 140-161)

    InGylfaginning, or ‘The Deluding of Gylfi,’ Snorri provides a pagan history of the cosmos from its fashioning from the body of the primordialjötunnYmir by the brothers Óðinn, Vili, and Vé, to its destruction inragnarøkr, the ‘doom’ or (according to Snorri) ‘twilight of the gods,’ and on into its paradisal rebirth.¹ This material is framed by a dialogue between Gylfi, a king of Sweden, and Hár, Jafnhár, and Þriði (High, Just-as-High, and Third), figures widely regarded as hypostases of Óðinn, here historicized as chieftain of theæsir, powerful and sorcerous migrants from Asia. PrecedingGylfaginningin all...

  12. Appendix: Kennings and Kenning-Types in Háttatal and Explication in Skáldskaparmál
    (pp. 162-174)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-226)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 227-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-258)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)