Gunnell Terry, Lassen Annette (dir.), The Nordic apocalypse: approaches to Völuspá and Nordic Days of Judgement

Gunnell Terry, Lassen Annette (dir.), The Nordic apocalypse: approaches to Völuspá and Nordic Days of Judgement, Turnhout, Brepols (Acta Scandinavica, vol. 2), 2013, XVIII-240 p. ISBN: 978-2-503-54182-2

Compte rendu par/Review by : Kevin J. Wanner

The Medieval Review

Date : 29 Sep 2014

The Nordic Apocalypse is an essay collection that, quoting Pétur Pétursson’s Introduction, “is designed to offer…insight into the ‘state of the art’ of Völuspá discussion at the start of the twenty-first century,” and which “has its roots in…papers given at a two-day conference held at…the National Museum of Iceland…[in] May 2008” (xiv). It was the organizers’ hope that “focusing a symposium on a single Eddic poem rather than a wider genre might be a fruitful step forward in the field of Eddic studies” (xiv), thus suggesting that this volume supplements or improves on earlier collections that have considered either the subset of “mythological” or “heroic” eddic poems. Given that Völuspá is the most famous and studied of the eddic poems–anonymous, vernacular compositions that focus on gods and legendary heroes, and that are largely narrative, didactic, and/or dialogic in form–it is doubtlessly the member of this genre best poised to generate the interest needed to fuel a conference and essay collection. While individual eddic poems cannot be dated precisely, they are generally regarded as products of the ninth through thirteenth centuries, which means that as a group and in some cases as single works they bridge the pre-Christian and Christian eras. Völuspá has for a long while been dated to around the year 1000, the approximate date of Iceland’s conversion, though this estimation (or its significance) is challenged by some of this volume’s contributors. It is the first poem in the principal manuscript of eddic poetry, the Codex Regius or Konungsbók, which was compiled in Iceland ca. 1270. Two other Icelandic sources for Völuspá are Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, a guide to poetry and myth produced probably in the 1220s that quotes close to half of its stanzas, and the fourteenth-century Hauksbók, which contains a version with significant differences from that of the Codex Regius. In terms of content, Völuspá, or the “Prophecy (spá) of the Seeress (völva),” offers a synopsis, if one that is patchy and allusive, of the span of Norse mythic history, from the shaping of the present world to its cataclysmic end, and on into the emergence of a new one.

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