Electronic version licensed for access by U. of T. users.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Toronto, 2007.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 68-06, Section: A, page: 2446.
This thesis examines the competitive function of Old Norse-Icelandic skaldic poetry of the late ninth to thirteenth centuries, arguing that verse-making was an instrument of social rivalry for its practitioners, who competed with one another to demonstrate their proficiency as verbal artists, and secure public status and lasting reputation. The agonistic quality of skaldic poetics is detectable throughout the verse corpus, and fundamental to the stereotyped representations of poets in saga narrative. Individual poets attempted not only to surpass their contemporaries, but also to outdo those preceding skalds whose work was transmitted to them in the memorial tradition. From the late twelfth century, when prose writers began to use skaldic poetry in the creation of their new textual communities, they memorialized this agonistic tradition as they translated it into the medium of writing, recreating the social and performative contests of the skalds in their narrative arrangements. Chapter 1 sets out two case studies exemplifying the importance of competition between rival skalds in the sagas. Chapter 2 examines the conceptualization of skaldic verse-making in poetry and prose as a competitive performance skill, an ithrott in which named poets strove to display their mastery of tradition in the pursuit of material and social advantage. Chapter 3 explores the creative tension between tradition and individual agency, showing how conventional mythologizing notions of poetry and poetic performance served the self-interest of skalds working in a highly conservative tradition. Chapters 4 and 5 offer a treatment of episodes in the Kings' Sagas and Sagas of Icelanders that exemplify the consistent preoccupation with the dramatization of poetry as a form of agonistic display, representing the assimilation of skaldic performative conventions in literary, narrative. Chapter 6 sets out some representative evidence for synchronic diachronic poetic rivalry in the corpus of court poetry, focussing on representative examples from the ho˛futhskald of the tenth to twelfth centuries. Finally, in Chapter 7, I discuss the expression competitiveness in the Contemporary Sagas, focussing on Islendinga saga and an extended poetic involving Snorri Sturluson, that arose from the political rivalries that divided Iceland in the 1220s.