Library Dissertation Showcase

From Axe Murderer to Nun: Understanding a Woman’s Place in Medieval Iceland with a Focus on the Íslendingasögur

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2019

This dissertation is an investigation into the place of a woman in early Icelandic society, with a focus on the representation of women and gender in the Íslendingasögur, the Icelandic family sagas. Historical debate on the subject is split, with some historians believing medieval Icelandic women had a surprising amount of rights and power, and others presenting the more typical image of medieval female oppression. This dissertation combines the suggestions of the Íslendingasögur with other evidence from the period in order to take a closer look at the nature of the argument, concluding that while neither argument is provable, evidence suggests that women in early Iceland could sometimes have diverse societal roles. The dissertation is split into three chapters, the first addressing the gender in the structure of early Icelandic society; the second looks at pagan and Christian attitudes towards sexual roles and difference; while the concluding chapter addresses gendered mediums of power and female independence.

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