The Performance of Old Norse Myth and Ritual

27. - 28. October 2011, University of Zürich, Switzerland

The conference 'The Performance of Old Norse Myth and Ritual', which will take place from 27-28 October 2011 at the University of Zurich (organised by the Abteilung für Nordische Philologie, Deutsches Seminar, University of Zurich), aims to investigate the specific character of the performative in the mythological texts of the Scandinavian Middle Ages and in the archaeological and art-historical sources for the pre-Christian religion of the North.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the medieval Icelandic texts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries which transmit the Old Norse mythology (eddic and skaldic poetry, sagas) were viewed from a decidedly source-critical standpoint, as literary creations of the high and late Middle Ages, and their significance in relation to aspects of pre-Christian, pre-medieval religion in the North was radically relativized. In the past ten to fifteen years a renewed interest in these texts on the part of historians of religion, literary historians, archaeologists and folklorists has become apparent. Characteristic for this new research orientation, which until now has made itself felt mainly in the Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon countries, is a close cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. For example, the research project 'Vägar till Midgård' has significantly advanced cooperation between text-based/philological, and object-based/archaeological disciplines and led to a series of significant insights and research results. Since 2005, a yearly interdisciplinary mythology conference has taken place (2005-8 in Aarhus, 2009 in Aberdeen, 2010 in Reykjavík, 2011 in Zurich), and has become the most important forum for communication between historians of religion, Scandinavianists, archaeologists and folklorists.

The theme of the October 2011 conference in Zurich takes off from this point in current research. For one, 'performance' is a theme which has achieved considerable prominence in recent Scandinavian mythological and religious studies. Furthermore, the performative has become an important paradigm in contemporary discussions in cultural studies, which is now unimaginable without it.

These approaches will be taken into consideration in the presentations at the planned conference. The deliberately broad conference theme enables participation by a wide range of different disciplines, and care will be taken in the selection of speakers to ensure representation of all the various fields by proven, internationally renowned experts.

The conference is in close collaboration with:


The organizers would like to thank the following institutions for their support: