Its Genre and Sources, with Particular Reference to the Description of Rome: Durham E-Theses (2012)
This thesis examines Leiðarvísir, a medieval itinerary from Iceland to the Holy Land. The itinerary indicates stops and distances, but is also rich in significant information on the places along the route. Leiðarvísir has been attributed to the twelfth-century Abbot Nikulás of the Benedictine abbey of Munkaþverá in Iceland and the text has been considered to be a travel account based on the direct experiences gained by the abbot during a journey. An analysis, however, of all the datable termini present in the itinerary demonstrates that the attribution of the whole itinerary to Nikulás cannot be maintained.
Having taken into consideration the most relevant criteria and definitions required to categorise a text as ‘travel writing’ and as a ‘travel account’, this thesis will then show that Leiðarvísir does not share any of the distinguishing genre features typical of a travel account, and that it should rather be classified as an impersonal guide. Finally, the thesis focuses on the description of Rome in Leiðarvísir, putting it in the context of other medieval descriptions of Rome. Not only does this contextualization make evident that the description of Rome is largely based on written sources, but it also proves that some of its details are incompatible with a twelfth-century dating and with its attribution to Nikulás. It emerges that Leiðarvísir is a work composed by an erudite scholar using written sources, and that it was probably successively enriched and updated with relevant information by one or more later scribes.