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Muntlighet och minne: Sagatraditionen, kulturhistorien och det kulturella minnets blinda fläck
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies.
2023 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Orality and Memory : The Saga Tradition, Cultural History and The Blind Spot of Cultural Memory (English)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation focuses on two distinct areas of study that do not have a predetermined or necessary connection to each other. The first area concerns issues of more immediate relevance to the cultural history of the Icelandic sagas, whereas the second area concerns issues of more general relevance to cultural memory research (Cultural Memory Studies, Kulturelles Gedächtnis) and what the author perceives as a deficiency or “blind spot” in this theory. The latter area, in its turn, falls into two distinct yet related areas of investigation (or critique).

In the field of Cultural Memory Studies – finding its most pregnant expression in the work of Jan and Aleida Assmann – there is a consistent and detrimental tendency to underestimate oral tradition. Much of this tendency can be attributed to the Assmann’s abidance by a written/textual norm. Because of this they have had difficulties handling mechanisms of oral transmission, which are often overlooked, misinterpreted, or underestimated. A telling example of this is the discussion of cultural storage and its importance for stability, creativity, and development within a given memory tradition, particularly prominent in the work of Aleida Assmann. Cultural memory theory particularly undervalues oral tradition when it comes to oral prose tradition. That is, the form of oral tradition that has the least in common with written cultural forms of expression. Cultural memory theory thus appears remarkably unable to account for the cultural dynamics of oral traditions as well as having difficulty handling texts with oral origins in a longer diachronic perspective. In the present investigation, this is considered a “blind spot” in the theory of cultural memory.

Since this area of study has been largely unexplored within cultural memory research, the empirical basis for the development of such a theory is limited in scope. Nonetheless, the intention in this dissertation is to outline a theory of channels for the transmission of cultural memory in oral prose tradition, and to initiate a critical discussion on how well the existing framework within cultural memory studies is able to accommodate such a theory. What makes these new insights possible is the main empirical material that is taken as a starting point, namely the Icelandic sagas, which will be put to work as an empirical corrective, through the identification of traces of such processes in the saga texts (which are here perceived as a type of orally derived texts).

The thesis maintained throughout this dissertation is strictly twofold. The first part is about establishing a fundamental theory of cultural memory processes in oral narrative tradition (“oral prose”). Above all, it is about identifying the oral transmission processes that have established channels for cultural memory transmission. I argue that these processes are partially analogous to those found in written transmission. These processes also entail certain types of stabilizing contextual factors that may be relevant in this context. The second part is about supplementing the memory theory’s view of cultural transmission and reproduction with less “fossilized” and more “living” types of transmission. This supplementary aim, in turn, requires a thorough discussion of several central terms in cultural memory theory. As a result, such an analysis has to involve the establishment of a diachronic cultural historical perspective on the saga literature. This ambition is part of a broader and somewhat loosely formulated goal of the dissertation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för Etnologi, religionshistoria och genusvetenskap, Stockholms universitet , 2023. , p. 367
Keywords [en]
Cultural memory, collective memory, Assmann, cultural forgetting, continuity, discontinuity, culture, tradition, memory, collective relevance, oral prose, oral tradition, Icelandic sagas, soul conceptions, Old Norse religion, draugar
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religion
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-213514ISBN: 978-91-8014-154-3 (print)ISBN: 978-91-8014-155-0 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-213514DiVA, id: diva2:1724469
Public defence
2023-03-14, Södra huset, hörsal 7, Vån 3, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-02-17 Created: 2023-01-07 Last updated: 2023-01-31Bibliographically approved

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Muntlighet och minne: Sagatraditionen, kulturhistorien och det kulturella minnets blinda fläck(3995 kB)520 downloads
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Wallenstein, Frederik

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