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1 January 2012 Sailing the Saga Seas: Narrative, Cultural, and Geographical Perspectives in the North Atlantic Voyages of the Íslendingasögur
Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
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Given the geographical magnitude and cultural significance of the medieval Norse voyages across the North Atlantic, the Norse-Icelandic Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders) may seem to accord such crossings relatively limited dramatic intensity and narrative weight, at least at first glance. However, close analysis of the texts reveals how deeply ingrained these sea journeys were in the Norse cultural mentality. The following paper explores narrative descriptions of sea voyages in the sagas, focusing on three key areas of this North Atlantic diaspora: Norway, Iceland, and Greenland. By identifying the narrative patterns associated with these journeys and situating them within their wider literary, cultural, and geographical contexts, the aim is to demonstrate that the accounts of sea journeys in the sagas, however fictionalized and stylized, are closely aligned with the geographical reality of the voyages as well as with the medieval Icelandic perception of the wider Norse diaspora and their place within it. The sagas in themselves are a type of textuality that both reflected and helped to shape the “cognitive mapping” of the geographical region as it was perceived in Norse-Icelandic society (and often in the wider Norse diaspora), both at the time of saga writing and also all the way back to the earliest Norse voyages in the Atlantic. In the analysis that follows, I aim to move towards an understanding of how these narrative, cultural, and geographical impulses come together to shape the Norse textual imagination and the picture of North Atlantic voyages that emerges from the sagas.1

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough "Sailing the Saga Seas: Narrative, Cultural, and Geographical Perspectives in the North Atlantic Voyages of the Íslendingasögur," Journal of the North Atlantic 2012(18), 1-12, (1 January 2012).
Published: 1 January 2012
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