Book Launch of The Old Testament in Medieval Icelandic Texts: Translation, Exegesis and Storytelling

We celebrate the launch of The Old Testament in Medieval Icelandic Texts: Translation, Exegesis and Storytelling (Boydell and Brewer, 2024), by Siân E. Grønlie, with a panel discussion with Prof Heather O’Donoghue, Prof Henrike Laehnemann, and Dr Rachel Burns, followed by a drinks reception.

About The Old Testament in Medieval Icelandic Texts:

“The historical narratives of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible have much in common with Icelandic saga literature: both are invested in origins and genealogy, place-names, family history, sibling rivalry, conflict and its resolution. Yet the comparison between these two literatures is rarely made, and biblical translations in Old Norse-Icelandic have been neglected as a focus of literary study. This book aims to redress this neglect. It shows how the likeness between biblical narrative and saga narrative has shaped the reception of the Old Testament in medieval Iceland, even through multiple layers of translation and exegesis. It draws on a wide variety of texts, including homilies, saints' lives, world histories, encyclopaedic works, and the biblical translations collectively known as Stjórn, to explore how medieval Icelanders engaged with Old Testament narrative in the light of their own vernacular tradition of storytelling. And above all, it argues that the medieval Icelanders understood and recognised in these well-known biblical stories a narrative art that was strikingly akin to their own.”

Siân Grønlie is Associate Professor in Medieval Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Her research addresses the intersections between Old Icelandic saga literature and the literature of continental Europe, especially saints’ lives and biblical translations. She is the author of The Saint and The Saga Hero: Hagiography and Early Icelandic Literature (2017) and The Old Testament in Medieval Icelandic Texts: Translation, Exegesis, and Storytelling (2024). She is currently working on a translation of the Old Norse biblical kings’ sagas (1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings).

Heather O’Donoghue is Professor Emeritus of Old Norse at Linacre College, Oxford. She has published on the reception of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature (English Poetry and Old Norse Myth, 2014, and From Asgard to Valhalla, 2nd edition 2023) and the narratology of Old Norse sagas (Skaldic Verse and the Poetics of Saga Narrative, 2005, and Narrative in the Icelandic Family Saga, 2021). She has co-edited the Cambridge History of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature (2024) and has just written a book on Beowulf. She is at present working on a Leverhulme-funded project exploring the legacy of the Viking settlement of Britain and Ireland.

Henrike Lähnemann is Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics and Co-Director of Oxford Medieval Studies. Her research focuses on the religious writing, the interplay of text and images and the relationship of Latin and the vernacular. She has worked extensively on Bible Epics, particularly the Book of Judith and its retellings from antiquity to the early modern reception, including the Open Access volume The Sword of Judith. Judith Studies Across the Disciplines (Open Book Publishers, 2013).