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Public defence: From Word to Image in Old Norse Court-Poetry

Master Bianca Patria at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies will defend her dissertation Kenning Variation and Lexical Selection in Early Skaldic Verse for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).

Doctoral candidate Bianca Patria, humanities building at the University of Oslo

Old Norse court-poetry in dróttkvætt is known for its complex form, unusual vocabulary and for the use of conventional periphrases (kennings). But how do all of these aspects relate to the poem’s content and style? What is the effect of lexical choice in kennings and to what extent would skalds make deliberate use of this resource in their verse?

Bianca Patria’s thesis, Kenning Variation and Lexical Selection in Early Skaldic Verse, represents an attempt at developing and testing new methodologies for the study of diachronic trends in skaldic style in the early poetic production in dróttkvætt (9th-12th cent.). The analysis has highlighted three important aspects that are often treated as peripheral, marked or exceptional, namely: the kennings’ contextual motivation, the stylistic exploitation of the kennings’ inherent imagery, and intertextual strategies such as borrowing, imitation and allusion.

The results encourages us to adopt a qualitative, diachronic analysis of skaldic diction, alongside the more common systemic one, in order fully to appreciate the dynamics of early dróttkvætt composition. Skalds would often make an effort to explore the properties of poetic language and to signal their belonging to a traditional poetic canon: these factors should guide our reading and interpretation of skaldic stanzas.

Bianca Patria successfully defended her thesis on May 21, 2021.

Trial lecture

Designated topic: "Innovation and imitation in the poetry of Einarr Skúlason"

Evaluation committee

Associate Professor Jonas Wellendorf, University of California Berkeley (first opponent)

Professor Klaus Johan Myrvoll, University of Stavanger (second opponent)

Associate Professor Elise Kleivane, University of Oslo (administrator)

Chair of the defence

Professor Åshild Næss


Mikael Males, University of Oslo

Haukur Þorgeirsson, Háskóli Íslands


Published Mar. 5, 2021 3:00 PM - Last modified May 26, 2021 8:23 AM