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Sagas and Space - Thinking Space in Viking Age and Medieval Scandinavia

University of Zurich via Coursera

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Space is a basic category of human thought. Over the last decades it became a very productive scientific category, too. Thinking about spaces, places, locations, or landscapes covers a spectrum of meanings from the concrete and material through to the abstract and metaphorical.
In this course we explore various categories of space in the field of Old Norse culture. Together with international guest scholars from different fields we want to find out how mythological, heroic, historical, geographical spaces or landscapes look like in written and oral narratives, but also on picture-stones, runic inscriptions, paintings, woodcarvings and manuscripts. Another promising question could be to ask about the relationship between texts, images and maps and the process of mapping itself.


Week 1  

Introduction and course overview: space as a key element of narration and representation

Week 2                                        

Constructing mythological space: Eddic cosmography

Sources: Prose-Edda, Poetic Edda

Week 3                      

Discovering new spaces: geographical and social aspects; memory and space

Sources: Sagas (Grænlendinga saga, Eiríks saga rauða)

Week 4                              

Cosmography: descriptions of the world in texts

Sources: Leiðarvísir (Itinerary of Nikulas)

Week 5                          

Mapping the World: Cartography

Sources: Carta Marina

Week 6 

Spatiality in visual media

Sources: picture-stones, runic inscriptions, paintings, woodcarvings, manuscripts

Week 7 



Week 8 Language and space: spatial thinking in language; place names


Conclusion and outlook

Taught by

Sandra Schneeberger


3.7 rating, based on 3 Class Central reviews

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  • I won't hesitate to name it as the best MOOC I have ever taken. Each week was run by different specialists (under the supervision of the main team) and it showed that the staff tried their hardest (and succeeded) to find the best specialist in each area. The course was demanding intellectually if not in the domain of time requirements - 5 hours a week seemed reasonable to me.
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    Pamylle Greinke

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