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Runes and Verse: The Medialities of Early Scandinavian Poetry

Jesch, Judith

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Professor of Viking Studies


The paper discusses a number of versified runic inscriptions, mainly from Scandinavia, and from ca. 400 to 1400 AD, to explore what they reveal about the forms and functions of early Scandinavian poetry outside the manuscript tradition. With a particular focus on ‘authors’ and ‘audiences’, as defined by Bredehoft in his work on Anglo-Saxon inscriptions, the paper elucidates the potential oral contexts of Scandinavian runic verse and concludes that, although runic writing is a form of literacy, the examples show that for most of its history it is associated with various kinds of oral context. Runic verse shows that inscriptions provide one of the best ways into understanding the Scandinavian oral tradition, not only before the arrival of manuscript literacy, but also during its infancy.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 10, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 14, 2017
Publication Date Apr 25, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 29, 2018
Journal European Journal of Scandinavian Studies
Print ISSN 2191-9399
Electronic ISSN 2191-9402
Publisher De Gruyter
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 47
Issue 1
Pages 181-202
Public URL
Publisher URL


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