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Pain, Love and the Embodiment of Emotion in Old Norse Literature

Culture and languages
Education and learning

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir, Iceland University

22 Apr 2021
15:00 - 17:00

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir, Islands universitet
“Pain, Love and the Embodiment of Emotion in Old Norse Literature”


Pain is ever-present in the Middle Ages. Indeed, medieval people must at times have had to suffer through excruciating pain; infected wounds, broken bones badly healed, toothaches with little remedies available short of pulling the affected tooth. Physical pain is an accompaniment of the human body, a continuous by-product of human existence. Analysing representation of pain can illuminate both cultural and literary conventions for expressing, mitigating and understanding pain as a human reality, a religious experience, or as a physiological or an emotional event.

This lecture will therefore address the medieval concept of pain and its various manifestations in Old Norse literature. It will consider the relation between pain and ideological values, the physiological and psycho-somatic dimensions of pain and, ultimately, the function of pain as an emotion. In the lecture it will be suggested that in Old Norse literature pain is intimately interlinked with the notion of interior emotionality and its physical manifestations.



Sif Rikhardsdottir is Professor of Comparative Literature and Chair of the Institute of Research in Literature and Visual Arts at the University of Iceland. She is the author of Medieval Translations and Cultural Discourse: The Movement of Texts in England, France and Scandinavia, published in 2012; Emotion in Old Norse: Translations, Voices, Contexts, which came out with Boydell & Brewer in 2017; and most recently the Critical Companion to Old Norse Literary Genre, co-edited with Carolyne Larrington and Massimiliano Bampi, that just came out last July. 

She is currently working on a text edition of the Middle English romance Partonope of Blois, co-edited with David Lawton, a Routledge Companion to Middle English Literature in a Trans-European Context with Raluca Radulescu, and an edited volume on Charlemagne in the Norse and Celtic Worlds with Helen Fulton in connection with an international research project on Charlemagne in Europe funded by The Leverhulme Trust. She is the project leader on a collaborative international project on ‘Emotion and the Medieval Self in Northern Europe’ funded by the Icelandic Research Fund in collaboration with scholars across Europe.

The seminar is part of a seminar series arranged by the Medieval Committee at the Faculty of Humanities.

The seminar takes place via Zoom and the following link: