Johanna Katrin Friðriksdóttir, Women, bodies, words and power

Johanna Katrin Friðriksdóttir, Women, bodies, words and power : Women in old Norse literature, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2010, (dir. C. Larrington, Université d’Oxford)

Résumé/abstract :

My doctoral thesis (2010) analysed women and power in Old Norse literature. In medieval Icelandic secular prose, female characters function as literary vehicles to engage with some of the most contested values of the period, revealing the preoccupations, desires and anxieties of its authors and audiences; chief amongst these concerns women’s access to and employment of power, and men’s vulnerability. Old Norse sources offer their audiences many discrete and varied female images: women of various social and economic positions and racial origins. Many of them conflict with the stereotypes prevalent in past scholarly discourse which, mainly because of its often selective approach to the extant evidence, has largely failed to perceive the richness and heterogeneity of female images and the multiplicity of their meanings. In this thesis an extensive and diverse gallery of female images from a wide range of secular prose texts will be analysed, demonstrating how varied and complex these female literary characters can be, how they develop over time, and how different genres which existed side by side, as well as individual texts within genres, offer different perspectives on the same problems. Many of the female characters in Old Norse literature can be seen as surprisingly powerful, and the ways in which they gain agency, whether by speech or actions, will be mapped out. These strategies may or may not be socially sanctioned. The thesis explores the roles available to women, how they negotiate these roles within the restraints of patriarchy and when they are seen to transgress normative boundaries, often being depicted as monstrous in these circumstances. The picture which emerges is not a simple dichotomy; it allows for ambiguity and subversion in itself by arguing for the monstrous ‘Other’ as a category which represents human qualities that are rejected and abjected but can never be made to disappear. In short, the thesis deals with questions of female power and uncovers how the texts represent women as agents.

[Source : https://arnastofnun.academia.edu/JohannaKatrinFridriksdottir]


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