By Judith Jesch
Creating the Medieval Saga: Versions, Variability and Editorial Interpretations of Old Norse Saga Literature, (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2010)
Introduction: The reconstituted text conventionally known as Orkneyinga saga has many points of interest for Old Icelandic literary history, in addition to any intrinsic literary qualities, and its interest as a source for the history and culture of Scandinavian Scotland. Two aspects of the literary-historical interest of Orkneyinga saga to be considered here are the generic affiliations of the text and its ‘creation’ as a ‘medieval saga’, to use the terminology of this volume. Michael Chesnutt once homed in on the same two ‘difficulties’ of the saga ‘for the historian of Old Norse-Icelandic literature’, identifying them as ‘the generic placing of the saga within the larger context of historical writing in Iceland’ and ‘the question of its textual transmission’.
Chesnutt’s use of the phrase ‘textual transmission’ might suggest a framework from what is nowadays known as the ‘old philology’, and a concern to reconstruct, as far as possible, the lost ‘original’ of a text. But, in fact, the opposite is the case: Chesnutt was concerned to demonstrate that what is now usually printed as the last part of the saga (part of chapter 108 and chapters 109–12) was in fact first incorporated into a revised version of the saga, represented by Flateyjarbók.