IMS Open Lecture Series Runes and Verse: The Medialities of Early Scandinavian Poetry

IMS Open Lecture Series Runes and Verse: The Medialities of Early Scandinavian Poetry

‘Runes and Verse: The Medialities of Early Scandinavian Poetry’

Prof. Judith Jesch (University of Nottingham)


The penultimate lecture of the 2016-17 series was delivered by Professor Judith Jesch, who presented us with a number of versified runic inscriptions from ca. 400 to 1400 AD and together we explored what they reveal about the forms and functions of early Scandinavian poetry outside the manuscript tradition. Examples hailed from countries such as Norway and Sweden and allowed the audience to glimpse artefacts they may not otherwise see. 
37 people attended the lecture, including a number of MA and PhD students from Universities in Leeds and York to name but a few.

Professor Jesch defined the term ‘medialities’ as the different ways in which words can be transmitted, be that through different languages or alphabets, the oral or written tradition, carvings, inscriptions or manuscripts. She drew our attention to the intricacies of language, and the different conceptual relationship between oral or runic communication and manuscript texts. The use of the first person in runic inscriptions was a point of particular interest, raising questions such as to whom to be attribute voice? Is the speaker the object itself personified, the creator of said object, the author of the prose or the artist responsible for carving the inscription? The lecture continued in this inquisitive vein and resulted in a deal of questions and discussion at the end, where audience members with knowledge of Old Norse were keen to share their own insights.

Judith Jesch is Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham. She is the author most recently of The Viking Diaspora (2015) and is currently working mainly on runic inscriptions and Old Norse poetry. She is also PI on the AHRC-funded 'Bringing the Vikings Back to the East Midlands' project, starting on 1 February 2017.