E 322 • Introduction to Germanic Religion and Myth
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
A survey of the sources and main features of Germanic religion and of the transition from paganism to Christianity in northern Europe and the Germanic territories of western Europe: Anglo-Saxon Great Britain, the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland and Austria--diachronically, from the statements of Caesar and Tacitus about Germanic religion to the last pre-Christian documents in the continental area (Merseburg charms, runic inscriptions, etc.) and in England (Beowulf) as well as the Scandinavian texts of the Eddas and the later information in poetry and saga. The coverage will include: cosmogonic myths, the origin of man (in Tacitus and the Eddas) and of society (in the Rigsthula), the concept of the soul (fylgja, etc.), the great gods and goddesses and their mythology (Odin, Thor, Tyr, Njord, Freyr, Freyja, Heimdall, Loki, Balder, etc.), and the organization of worship (temples, sacrifices, etc). Attention will also be devoted to the survival of Germanic myth in epic/legendary literature (Sigurd/Siegfried, Hervor, Starkad, etc.) and realistic sagas ("magic" in Egils saga, Eiríks saga rauda, Hrafnkels saga, etc.), as well as to information about pagan worship in Christian writings (lives of the saints, Adam of Bremen, etc.). The background and expansion of Germanic worship and belief will also be examined (Indo-European heritage, correspondences with Celtic traditions, influence on Lappish and Slavic religion, Arab sources, the Thor-cult of the Vikings [Normandy, Varangians in Kiev, etc.]).
Three out-of-class 5-page papers. First 2 can be revised and re-submitted. Revised grade expunges the old grade. (In other words, they aren't averaged together.)
Two in-class writing sessions -- 5-6 pages each
Grades generated thus: Each of the five writing assignment grades is weighted equally at 18% for a total of 90%. The remaining 10% comes from class participation: regular attendance, quizzes on readings, and participation in class discussion.
The Poetic Edda, tr. Carolyne Larrington. Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0 19 283946 2
The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, tr. Jean I. Young. University of California Press, 1973. ISBN 0 520 01231 3
The Saga of the Volsungs, tr. Jesse L. Byock. University of California Press, 1990. ISBN 0 520 06904 8
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, by H. R. Ellis Davidson. Penguin, 1964. ISBN 01 401 36274
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, by H. R. Ellis Davidson. Syracuse University Press, 1988. ISBN 0 8156 2441 7
Roles of the Northern Goddess, by H. R. Ellis Davidson. Routledge, 1998. ISBN 0415136113