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AM 456 fol., Den Arnamagnæanske Samling

Part project 7: The Notion of Genres in Old Norse Studies: Origins and Diachronic Metaparadigm

Prof. Dr. Lena Rohrbach

Recent years have featured a growing interest in genre theoretical reflections of the Old Norse tradition, as amongst others discernible in the edited volume A Critical Companion to Old Norse Literary Genre (Bampi/Larrington/Sif Rikhardsdottir 2020). Increasingly, the established concepts of genres and subgenres in Old Norse literature have been questioned. Several contributions revealed that the traditional genre boundaries do not reflect the textual reality of narratives that do not fit into one of the generic boxes, but rather exhibit a high degree of continuity and hybridity of the literary tradition in premodern Iceland.

The longevity of the ruling genre paradigms can ultimately be traced back to the archival and philological practices of Dano-Icelandic antiquarian scholars of the 17th and early 18thcentury, most notably to Árni Magnússon and his associate Jón Ólafsson. Árni Magnússon arranged the manuscripts in his collection according to certain thematic criteria and archived manuscripts in groups. After his death, Jón Ólafsson numbered the manuscripts in the collection with consecutive shelf marks according to the order in which Árni had arranged them and made the first catalogue of the collection. Árni Magnússon furthermore also rearranged, divided and recompiled both early modern paper copies and medieval parchment manuscripts. One famous example for this practice is Hauksbók, a compilation that today is archived as three separate items under three shelf marks in different sections of the collection (AM 371 4to in a group of manuscripts containing Icelandic historiography, AM 544 4to in the middle of several manuscripts containing translated romances and historiography, and AM 675 4to in the middle of a group of other manuscripts containing Elucidarius). The archival disposition as well as the rearrangements of individual manuscripts reflect philological and literary-historical deliberations of Árni Magnússon and his contemporaries that are explicated in the scholarly writings and networks of communication of this period that have received increasing attention over the past years.

The part project aims at studying this implicit and explicit construction of genre paradigms in the archival and discursive practices of the Dano-Icelandic antiquarians as well as the diachronic resonance of these Setzungen in other central paradigms in the history of Old Norse research addressed in the overall project, as notions of genres can be regarded as yet another metaparadigm that fundamentally influences perspectives and hypotheses of research. The influence of this metaparadigm will be studied by means of following intersections of mentions of genre designations and holdings in the Arnamagnæan manuscript collection throughout the project corpus.

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