Every three years the Old Norse community descends upon a city (or two) for the International Saga Conference. This summer brought us to the universities of Zürich and Basel for a week’s worth of papers and discussion on a variety of subjects across the field, from 9–15 August. The title given to this year’s conference was ‘Sagas and Space’, inviting submissions to thematic strands ‘Constructing Space’, ‘Mediality’, ‘Textuality and Manuscript Transmission’, ‘Reception of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature’, ‘Continental Europe and Medieval Scandinavia’, ‘Literatures of Eastern Scandinavia’, ‘Bodies and Senses in the Scandinavian Middle Ages’ and a wide range of other topics. Between Cambridge scholars present and past, representatives of the ASNaC department could be found in every one of these thematic strands.
Monday saw doctoral student Maria Theresa Ramandi present on the Legend of St Agnes in Old Icelandic translation as well as a roundtable discussion on eddic poetry led by Dr Judy Quinn and featuring Dr Brittany Schorn. In Basel on Tuesday both presented additional papers on eddic material (on the artifice of intimacy in eddic dialogues and modes of poetry in prosimetric sagas) and doctoral students Rebecca Merkelbach and Joanne Shortt Butler represented the Íslendingasögur with papers on mediality and monstrosity, and on characterisation in Eyrbyggja saga respectively. On Wednesday Dr Elizabeth Ashman Rowe presented her current research on the Icelandic annals, offering a tantalising glimpse of forthcoming publications on these neglected texts. After a day off for trekking in the Alps, exploring the manuscript collection of Saint Gallen abbey, cruising on Lake Lucerne or just getting better acquainted with Zürich, the conference wrapped up on Friday. Doctoral student Caitlin Ellis mapped out the political geographies of eleventh-century kings Knútr Sveinsson (Cnut the Great) and Óláfr Haraldsson, whilst Dr Paul Gazzoli explained the manuscript tradition and re-interpretations of the Latin Life of St Anskar, a missionary saint associated with the conversion of Scandinavia.
ASNaC alumni from around Europe added to the representation of the department, with papers and contributions by Drs Rosalind Bonté (Brepols publishers), Eleanor Heans-Glogowska, Emily Lethbridge (Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, Reykjavík) and Jeffrey Love (Stockholm University). Doctoral students Katherine Olley, Jonathan Hui and Victoria Cribb also swelled the ranks of Cambridge delegates, partaking of discussions, developments and opportunities to meet colleagues old and new. The week was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with friends and peers from all around the globe, as well as those from collaborative projects such as the Languages, Myths and Finds network, Árni Magnússon Institute Manuscript Master Classes, Skaldic Poetry Project — and even to form brand new research networks! Rebecca Merkelbach led the formation of an Old Norse Network of Otherness (ONNO), comprised largely of early-career scholars from around the world whose work focusses on the marginal and medial aspects of Old Norse literature. The interests of the network include “
Saga Conference 2015