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The Heart of Dread: A Case Study of Fear in Old Norse Culture

The Heart of Dread: A Case Study of Fear in Old Norse Culture

By Jonathan F. Correa Reyes

MA Thesis, University of Iceland, 2016

NKS 1867 4to, Danish Royal Library, 18th century

Abstract: The misplaced idea of the Middle Ages as a period of unmediated emotion is still popular. Yet, by studying both textual and material culture from the period, recent scholarship in the history of emotions has proved that this is not the case.

Literature has proven to be a valuable source for the modern researcher to improve their understanding of the mentality with which past cultures regarded emotions. The present thesis attempts to improve our understanding of emotions in Old Norse culture, and consequently the Middle Ages, by performing a case study of fear across three different genres of Old Norse literature.


The purpose of this case study is to reconstruct a mentality of fear by looking at four texts in detail: Hrólfs saga kraka ok kappa hans, Atlakviða, Atlamál in Grœnlenzku, and Fóstbræðra saga. Fear plays a key role within these narratives. Thus, by looking at the representation of fear in these texts, we can glimpse fragments of the ideology underlying said representations. And thus, we can make relevant statements about the discourse that surrounded this emotion in the emotional communities that produced these stories.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Iceland

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