In 2021, Steven Mithen travelled to Nave Island in search of evidence of Viking settlement. You can read about his findings in his report, Searching for the Vikings on Nave Island, Isle of Islay, here.
In the spring of 2020, I discovered that in the Stowe collection in the British Library was an Icelandic fourteenth-century parchment bifolium, said to contain “anecdotes of Archbishops of Canterbury,” that had never been studied or discussed by Old Norse-Icelandic scholars. Also in the Stowe collection were three eighteenth-century paper manuscripts which contained texts copied from Icelandic manuscripts in the Arnamagnæan collection in Copenhagen. I ordered images of the bifolium, transcribed and studied its text and found that it had once been a part of the manuscript AM 764 4to (Reynistaðarbók), in the Arnamagnæan collection. My investigation revealed that the bifolium had been removed from the manuscript in the late eighteenth century. It was then taken to England where Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin (1752–1829) presented it to Thomas Astle (1735–1803), whose manuscript collection makes up the bulk of the Stowe collection.
I wrote an article about my discovery and edited the compilation of texts now split between Stowe MS 980 and AM 764 4to. The article, “Anecdotes of several archbishops of Canterbury: a lost bifolium from Reynistaðarbók discovered in the British Library,” is printed in the journal Gripla, vol. 32 (2021), pp. 7–56. A grant I received from the Viking Society for Northern Research allowed me to travel to London to study the bifolium as well as the three paper manuscripts in the Stowe collection in person on October 21–23, 2021. There, I was able to measure the leaves and the text blocks and confirm that they were indeed of comparable size to the leaves of AM 764 4to. I was also able to clarify some readings that were unclear in the images provided by the British Library. Lastly, I used this opportunity to take my own photos of the bifolium as well as of the Icelandic paper manuscripts in the Stowe collection, which will aid me in any future publication.
Doing Things With Old Norse Myth: A Research & Cultural Symposium on Mythological Processes, Reykjavík, 25-27 November 2021
After last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic, 2021 finally saw the 16th annual Aarhus Old Norse Mythology Conference. This year, there were three important differences from previous editions. If one word would describe it, it might well be ‘hybridization’. First, like most other conferences, ‘Doing Things’ was forced to become a ‘hybrid’ event. While many presenters were luckily able to make it to Reykjavik, others were unfortunately forced to present or attend online. Second, while on the topic of presenters, this year heard new voices through a call for conference contributions in addition to the usual invited papers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this year saw a day of ‘cultural events’ added to the two-day academic programme. This extra day of Goðsagnalistþing included a round-table discussion on ‘Modernising Old Norse Myth’, followed by a number of conversations each between a scholar and an artist or author who takes inspiration from Old Norse myths for their work. The symposium was concluded with a showing of the Icelandic animated movie Legends of Valhalla: Thor with an introduction by its scriptwriter.
The cultural day perfectly highlights that the scholarship we perform during the academic programme and on a daily basis does not happen in a vacuum. Old Norse mythology is booming, and while creators may first and foremost take inspiration from the primary sources, our work too is looked at, for interpretation, explanation, and contextualization. As these artists arguably have a wider reach and larger audience, understanding and cultivating this relation between arts and academia may be vital for the public perception of our field of research.