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Karl G. Johansson

Abstract

Medievalist scholarship is generally dependent on interdisciplinary communication. Scholars working with medieval material are regularly involved in exchanges of knowledge and interpretations. Traditionally philology has played a central role in this exchange and has been recognized as central to an understanding of the Middle Ages within the humanities. In this chapter I argue for the role philologists should play with a discussion of the relation between on the one hand intertextuality and intermediality in a literate culture, in the case of the Middle Ages, admittedly an emerging literate culture, and on the other hand what could be categorized as the “oral continuum” throughout the Middle Ages. The second part of the chapter addresses a number of narratives from widely different genres, some translated from the continental Christian literature, some at least to some extent based on vernacular traditions. The contention is that these narratives are interrelated in a culture where oral and written media exchanged both forms and contents. The written tradition of the biblical Maccabees was not only read in this culture, but was also part of the development of oral traditions, and motifs from this work are most likely reflected in the narratives about the Hjaðningavíg and the stories about the einherjar in Valhǫll. In order to shed light on these relations between oral and written traditions the philologist needs to apply a multi-disciplinary approach to the extant written material, taking into consideration the various lines of transmission that were intertwined in medieval manuscript culture.