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The Epic and the Novel: Saga and Story Symposium Final Event

April 7, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Sagas_April 6-7 2017 event poster

From its roots in Old Norse, the word “saga” has been adopted into English as well as a number of other modern languages. In a medieval context, sagas were long prose narratives that told tales of fierce Vikings, legendary heroes, and long-running feuds. These stories feature unforgettable characters like Egil Skallagrímsson, a figure capable of committing acts of staggering brutality and of composing poems of intricate beauty. Written primarily in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Iceland, the sagas are set mostly in the ninth- and tenth-century world of the Vikings, far-flung adventurers whose exploits brought them from the shores of North America to the sands of the Near East. Defying easy categorization as either “history” or “literature,” the sagas instead demand to be explored from interdisciplinary perspectives. This year’s UMHC Symposium takes up the challenge, tracing the legacies of the sagas from the early Middle Ages to the present day. Invited speakers will address, among other topics, the oral origins and aesthetic value of Norse poetry, the long traditions of manuscript copying and illumination in Iceland, and the works of Halldór Laxness, whose saga-inspired novels garnered him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

The final celebration of the Saga and Story UMaine Humanities Center 2016-2017 Symposium is a two-day exploration of the legacy of Icelandic author Halldór Laxness, whose masterful writing has inspired generations of writers. During the New Writing Series event on Thursday April 6, 2017 at 4:30pm in the IMRC building, internationally celebrated writers Eileen Miles, Justin Taylor, Andrew Ervin, and Gregory Howard will read their creative work that has been inspired by Laxness.

On Friday, Friday, April 7, 2017, come see “The Epic and the Novel: Saga and Story Symposium” from 3-5pm at the Foster Innovation Center. The first hour of this symposium will consist of writer-panelists’ perspectives on Laxness’ legacy and writing.From the Norse Sagas to Karl Ove Knausgaard, writers have drawn a connection between the daily minutiae of human experience and the grand stuff of love and conflict about which epics are written. The work of Icelandic Nobel laureate Halldor Laxness explores questions of loneliness and connection, and develops aesthetic strategies for depicting individuals in connection (or resistance) to each other, as well as the natural and cultural landscapes they inhabit. This panel will offer an introduction to Laxness’s wide-ranging body of work, and serve as a jumping-off point for a genre-spanning conversation about the ways we think and write about loneliness and connection, language and tradition, and the intersection of the personal and the historical. As Laxness writes, “It is certain that people would understand one another better and love one another more if they would admit to one another how lonely they were, how sad they were in their tormented, anxious longings and feeble hopes.”

The second hour of this symposium will be a community discussion of Laxness’ Independent People—all are welcome to participate. A reception of Scandinavian food will follow this event.


April 7, 2017
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Foster Innovation Center
Orono, ME 04469 United States
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