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  • E-mailHelen.Leslie@uib.no
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    413a
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    5020 Bergen

Project leader for:

Transformations of Medieval Law: Innovation and Application in Early Modern Norwegian Law Books

Funded by Bergen Research Foundation

The research project Transformations of Medieval Law explores how medieval and Early Modern law books in Norway and Iceland reflect the legal and cultural contexts in which they were written and compiled. How were the laws recorded before the timeframe of the recognisable red volume, Norges lover 1687-2015?

The answer to that is found in over 100 manuscripts preserving Norway’s medieval and Early Modern law-code. The law code valid in Norway prior to 1687 was written in Bergen and passed in 1274, and is known as the Landslov, the first law-code valid for the whole of Norway. It was in force for an exceptional 400 years, lasting for the reigns of 19 monarchs until it was superseded by Christian den femtes Norske Lov of 1687. This exceptionally long-lived code is of the utmost importance for Norway’s history; law manuscripts are the most abundant genre of manuscript available from medieval to Early Modern times. 1 During that period, Norway transformed from a medieval kingdom to an Early Modern European state, the sweeping changes in religion, culture and language all captured in and reflected by the law manuscripts of the period.

The problem is that many of the manuscripts pertinent to this project are so far unedited and not analysed: whilst the medieval Landslov manuscripts from the 14th century onwards in Old Norwegian have generally been well-researched, very little information is available about the translation of the law from Old Norwegian to Danish in early modern Norway (16th and 17th centuries), the ammendments by the roster of later monarchs who later edited the law, and its revision to form the law-code Jónsbók in Iceland, some parts of which are still in force today.

This innovative project seeks to fill this gap in research by employing methodologies and theoretical frameworks in a novel way to combine legal history and philology. The project team will undertake research on the later manuscripts of the Landslov in order to gain an insight into the development of the law from the end of the Middle Ages onwards. The project makes these manuscripts and their contents accessible to a wide audience, and highlights Norwegian Early Modern cultural heritage, thus making an important contribution to the study of Norway’s legal, linguistic and book history from a hitherto unexplored perspective.

The project has been developed based on the following research questions:

1) How and to what extent do innovations in the structure, contents and use of law books of Early Modern Norway reflect changes to Norwegian society during the Reformation and Renaissance?

2) How did legal circles in Norway and Iceland order and apply their knowledge in medieval and Early Modern times?

The goal of the project is to situate this approach in the cultural, historical and religious contexts in which the Landslov existed through its lifetime. The interdisciplinary, longue durée approach presented here is a unique approach to the contextualisation, transformation and application of the law.

Selected publications (see my Academia.edu page for PDFs of many of these)

  • 2019.   ‘Ǫrvar-Oddr’s Ævikviða and the Genesis of Ǫrvar-Odds saga: A Poem on the Move.’ Moving Words. Ed. Amy Mulligan and Else Mundal. Turnhout: Brepols. 279-296.
  • 2018.   ‘Perspectives on Translating Medieval Law.’ Tradurre: un viaggio nel tempo. Ed. Maria Grazia Cammarota. Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari. 131-147.
  • 2017. 'The Ecology of Eddic and Skaldic Poetry.' RMN Newsletter 12-13: 123-138.
  • 2016. 'Eddic Poetry and the Genre System of the Fornaldarsögur.' Genre – Text - Interpretation: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Folklore and Beyond. Ed. Frog, Kaarina Koski and Ulla Savolainen. Studia Fennica 22. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society. 251-275.
  • 2015. 'The Old Norse Poetic Form stikki.' RMN Newsletter 9: 35-43.
  • 2014. 'The Death Songs of Örvar-Odds saga.' Cartografies del l’ànima. Identitat, memòria i escriptura. Ed. Isabel Grifoll, Julián Acebrón & Flocel Sabaté. Lleida: Pagès editors. 231-244.
  • 2013. 'Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies.' Approaching Methodology. Ed. Frog & Pauliina Latvala with Helen F. Leslie. Revised 2nd edition with an introduction by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts. Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae, Humaniora series, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica. 287-309.
  • 2012. 'Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies.' RMN Newsletter (special issue Approaching Methodology) 5: 148-161.
  • 2010. '"The Matter of Hrafnista".'  Quaestio Insularis 11: 169 – 208.
  • 2009. 'Border Crossings: Landscape and the Other World in the Fornaldarsögur.' Scripta Islandica 60: 119 – 136.
Academic article
  • 2017. The Ecology of Eddic and Skaldic Poetry. RMN Newsletter. 123-138.
  • 2015. The Old Norse Poetic Form stikki. RMN Newsletter. 35-43.
  • 2012. Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies. RMN Newsletter. 148-161.
  • 2010. "The Matter of Hrafnista". Quaestio Insularis. 169-208.
  • 2009. Border Crossings: Landscape and the Other World in the Fornaldarsögur. Scripta Islandica: Isländska sällskapets årsbok. 119-136.
Lecture
  • 2019. Transformations of Medieval Law: The Hows and Whys of Designing a Larger Research Project.
  • 2019. TMS Starting Grant – A Personal Path to Funding.
  • 2018. Transformations of Medieval Law: Innovation and Application in Early Modern Norwegian Law Books. Project Presentation.
  • 2017. Round Table: Teaching: Skills and Technologies.
  • 2017. Round Table: Career Planning & Funding Applications.
  • 2015. Member of Group "Endings and Beginnings".
Popular scientific lecture
  • 2015. Cycles of Violence in Old Norse Mythology.
  • 2010. Old Norse, Manuscripts and Rune Stones.
Academic lecture
  • 2019. The Eyes of Justice: Morality and Body Metaphors in English Legal Texts.
  • 2019. The Cross in Text and Image: Sources of the Dream of the Rood.
  • 2019. The Codicological Contexts of Norwegian Law in the Middle Ages.
  • 2019. Queer Textures of the Past, 5th to 16th Centuries: A Round Table Discussion.
  • 2019. Parergon, Paratext and Processes of Transformation in the Medieval Legal Prologue.
  • 2019. Offuerset, corrigerit oc forbedrit: The First Printed Norwegian Law of 1604.
  • 2019. Non-Linear Access to Information in Manuscript Books.
  • 2019. Mangia godh thing: Saint Birgitta in a 14th Century Norwegian Law Manuscript.
  • 2019. Grant Writing Workshop.
  • 2018. “Written at the Beginning, Before the Book itself Begins”: Prologues to Medieval Norwegian Laws.
  • 2018. The Self-Representation of King Magnus the Law-Mender in the Landslov of 1274.
  • 2018. The 1604 Danish Translation of 13th-Century Norwegian Law.
  • 2018. Taking the Law West in the 9th to 13th Centuries.
  • 2018. St Bridget in a Norwegian Legal Manuscript: Codex Hardenbergensis.
  • 2018. Mangia godh thing: St. Birgitta at the Beginning of a Norwegian Law Manuscript.
  • 2018. How Innovative is Innovative? Adaptations of Norwegian Law in New Law Codes in Iceland and Norway from the Tenth to Thirteenth Centuries.
  • 2017. The Sacred Grove in Pre-Christian Germanic Religion.
  • 2017. The Figure of the Poet and the Old Norse Death Songs.
  • 2017. Laws for the Margin of Society in 13th Century Norway.
  • 2017. Final Places of Belonging: Home in the Old Norse Death Songs.
  • 2017. Definitions of Terms and Social Norms in Medieval Norwegian Law.
  • 2016. The Performance of Skaldic Poetry in the Prosimetric Fagrskinna.
  • 2016. Food and the Landslov in Thirteenth Century Norway.
  • 2016. Aspects of the Germanic Hero Sigurðr Fáfnisbani in Medieval Scandinavia, Especially Norway.
  • 2016. 'If a Man Steals Apples or Turnips': Law and Food in 13th-Century Norway.
  • 2015. “Ertu ei sá Oddr er fór til Bjarmalands fyrir lǫngu?”: Places and the Construction of Ǫrvar-Odds saga.
  • 2015. The Sacred Grove in Germanic/Scandinavian Pre-Christian Religion.
  • 2015. The Norwegian National Law of 1274 and its translation into English.
  • 2015. The Medieval Germanic Hero and Old Age.
  • 2015. The Evidence for the Existence and Function of Sacred Groves in Germanic Pre-Christian Belief.
  • 2015. Project Presentation: Approaches to the Manuscript Compilations of the Landslov.
  • 2015. New Directions in Fornaldarsögur Studies Round Table (Ballads).
  • 2015. Coming Face to Face with Sigurd Fafnesbane in Medieval Norway.
  • 2014. The mise-en-page of poetry in manuscripts of fornaldarsögur.
  • 2014. The Landslov of 1274. A new translation.
  • 2014. Omsetjing til engelsk (igangverande).
  • 2014. Medieval Icelandic Prosimetra in the Context of the Learned Tradition.
  • 2014. Intertextual Perspectives on Örvar-Oddr's Death Song in its Various Manuscripts.
  • 2014. Eddic Poetry in the Fornaldarsögur: Contexts and Questions.
  • 2013. Runic Revaluations and the Bryggen (Bergen) Finds.
  • 2012. Settling the North and Mythic Ethnography in Two Old Icelandic Genres.
  • 2012. Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry: Snorra Edda and the fornaldarsögur.
  • 2012. Mise-en-page and the prosimetrum of Ketils saga hængs.
  • 2012. Mise-en-page and the Prosimetrum of Ketils saga hængs.
  • 2012. Latin and the Light Literature in Old Norse.
  • 2012. Heroes and the Death Song in Germanic Tradition.
  • 2011. Well-Pissers and Water Goblins: What the Monsters of Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka Mean.
  • 2011. Unanswered Questions: Intertextuality and the Shaping of Gylfaginning.
  • 2011. Unanswered Questions: Intertextuality and the Shaping of Gylfaginning.
  • 2011. Types of Poetic Autobiography in Old Norse Legendary Sagas.
  • 2011. Three Vættir in Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka.
  • 2011. Starting Points for the Theory of "Science" Essay.
  • 2011. Grottasǫngr.
  • 2010. The Quotation of Grottasöngr in Snorra Edda.
  • 2010. The Introduction of Eddic Poems into the Narrative of Gylfaginning.
  • 2010. Project: Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry.
  • 2010. Performing Óðinn and the Prosimetric Form in Snorra Edda (article presentation).
  • 2010. Performing Óðinn and the Prosimetric Form in Snorra Edda.
  • 2010. Continuum of Tradition and the Men of Hrafnista.
  • 2009. The Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry.
  • 2009. Landscape and the Other Worlds of the Fornaldarsögur.
  • 2009. Landscape and the Other World in the Fornaldarsögur.
  • 2008. “Metamorphosis of Context: Generating Meaning in Völuspá”.
Book review
  • 2012. In Odin's time: Norse religion in historical age sagas. Historisk Tidsskrift (Norge). 645-647.
  • 2012. Gunnhild Røthe: I Odins Tid: Norrøn Religion i Fornaldersagaene. Historisk Tidsskrift (Norge). 645-647.
Academic anthology/Conference proceedings
  • 2013. Approaching Methodology: Second Revised Edition with an Introduction by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts. Academia Scientiarum Fennica.
Doctoral dissertation
  • 2013. Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry, Primarily in the Fornaldarsǫgur.
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
  • 2019. Ǫrvar-Oddr's Ævikviða and the Genesis of Ǫrvar-Odds saga: A Poem on the Move. 18 pages.
  • 2018. Perspectives on Translating Medieval Law. 17 pages.
  • 2016. Eddic Poetry and the Genre System of the Fornaldarsögur. 25 pages.
  • 2014. The Death Songs of Örvar-Odds saga. 14 pages.
  • 2013. Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies. 23 pages.
Poster
  • 2019. Mellomalderlov i endring. Nyvinningar og bruksmåtar i førmoderne norske lovhandskrift .
  • 2018. Transformations of Medieval Law: Ordering, Conveying and Updating Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Norwegian and Iceland Law Books, from 1274 to 1687.
  • 2017. Transformations of Medieval Law.
  • 2015. Sigurðr in the Medieval North.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)