Sarah Baccianti, Telling stories in the medieval north: historical writing and literary artistry in medieval England and medieval Scandinavia, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2010, (dir. H. O’Donoghue, University of Oxford)
The primary aim of this study is to highlight the importance of the narrative structure in four texts written in medieval England and Scandinavia: Historia Anglorum, Heimskringla, Historia regum Britanniae and Breta Sögur. These are prose texts written in Anglo-Latin and Old Norse-Icelandic, and all contain some features characteristic of medieval historical writing: interpolation of verses and passages of dialogue, authorial interventions, the use prologues and written sources. These common features show that the medieval historians/chroniclers of medieval England and Scandinavia, in spite of following the dictates of medieval historical writing, nonetheless apply their own particular characteristics, as the chapter on Breta Sögur shows.
The thesis is organised in chronological order, using the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, throughout the work, as work of reference/comparison and of paramount importance to the medieval historians. It begins with Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum, which provides a history of England in a continuous narration and in a heavily moralistic tone. It then moves into a discussion of Heimskringla, which also offers a continuous narration of the history of Norway. However, unlike Historia Anglorum, history is depicted through the life of each king and not the various battles and events. Breta Sögur, on the other hand, is an excellent example of how the Scandinavian redactor of the saga adapted and reworked Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia, corroborating the idea that the use of common sources/texts does not necessarily mean that the final result is identical. This thesis explores the ways medieval historians in northern Europe conceived of and transmitted historical facts, but most importantly how the role of the historian, his auctoritas, and his audience shaped the perception of the past, and influenced its modes of perception.