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Performance and Norse Poetry: The Hydromel of Praise and the Effluvia of Scorn

Stephen Mitchell

Oral Tradition Volume 16, Number 1

How should we moderns “read” a medieval text? Thanks to the work of many scholars, not least the pioneering studies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, we are today able to understand the nature and implications of a preserved medieval work’s background as an oral text much better than did the early and brilliant (but narrowly gauged) generations that included such giants within Old Norse as Jacob Grimm, Konrad von Maurer, Theodor Möbius, Rudolf Keyser, and N. M. Petersen. Given these advances in our understanding of orality, performance, and the ethnography of speaking, how do we decode the social, religious, and literary worlds of northern Europe in the Middle Ages?

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