Dame Bertha PhillpottsThis Friday and Saturday, Somerville will host “Old Norse Poetry in Performance” – an international interdisciplinary conference examining the performance and transmission of Scandianvian and Icelandic poetry in the Middle Ages.

Featuring distinguished scholars in the field, including keynote speaker Professor Terry Gunnell from the University of Iceland, the conference represents a serious attempt to link the work being done by academics and performers engaged in the study and reproduction of this material today.

Old Norse poetry has been an important tradition at Somerville throughout the College’s life. Our library, for example, holds one of the best collections of relevant volumes in Oxford besides the Bodleian’s holdings and those of the English Faculty.

We can also lay some claim to the work of Dame Bertha Phillpotts (pictured), who was the Lady Carlisle Fellow here between 1913 and 1916. During that time she began work on her book The Elder Edda and Ancient Scandinavian Drama (1920) – a pioneering and bold re-appraisal of this most important collection of Eddic verse. Her 1931 work, Edda and Saga, was a controversial contribution to the field that was much criticised at the time but has since come to be seen as a tremendously important and scholarly approach to the corpus.

Since Dame Bertha’s time, Somerville has witnessed the distinguished careers of Ursula Dronke, Fellow and Tutor, 1950-61; Heather O’Donoghue, now Professor of Old Norse at Linacre College; and more recently, the graduate career of Siân Grønlie, now a Fellow of St Anne’s. The College remains a centre of excellence for the study of Old Norse, and it seems very appropriate to hold the conference here, 100 years after the War interrupted Dame Bertha’s tenure as a Fellow.

For more information, please visit: www.oldnorsepoetryinperformance.com

 

 

 

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