Atlantic Outlooks on Place: Place Lore and Storytelling Traditions in Iceland and Ireland (Matthias Egeler)

‘Atlantic Outlooks on Place’ is an interdisciplinary project spanning the fields of Celtic Studies and Scandinavian Studies, two fields whose objects of study are intimately connected through the close contacts that existed between medieval Scandinavia and medieval Ireland since the beginning of the Viking Age. The project presents the first comparative study of the semantization of space in Old Norse and early Irish literature and toponymy: by analysing place stories and the place names typically connected with them in both medieval Icelandic and medieval Irish literature, it approaches the inscription of ‘meaning’ into places in an Irish-Norse comparative perspective. In doing so, the project pursues the question of to which extent medieval Irish and Norse attitudes to the semantization of space can be argued to form a ‘koinē’: do Irish and Norse approaches to place lore parallel each other with sufficient closeness to suggest that they present a shared ‘Northwest Atlantic’ culture of storytelling about places? The working hypothesis underlying the project is that the close interaction between the Gaelic-speaking culture of Ireland and Scotland and the Norse settlers that founded Norse colonies in the Northwest Atlantic from the beginning of the Viking Age onwards could have led to a far-reaching adoption of Gaelic place lore and the underlying attitudes to the semantization of space by these part-Hibernicized settlers. This might have led to the rise of a shared attitude to charging geographical space with ‘meaning’.

This project is supported by a DAAD-P.R.I.M.E.-Fellowship and conducted in collaboration with the Department of Early and Medieval Irish, School of Irish Learning, University College Cork.