Author: William Ian Miller
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Release Date: 2009-05-15
Genre: Literary Criticism
Dubbed by the New York Times as "one of the most sought-after legal academics in the county," William Ian Miller presents the arcane worlds of the Old Norse studies in a way sure to attract the interest of a wide range of readers. Bloodtaking and Peacemaking delves beneath the chaos and brutality of the Norse world to discover a complex interplay of ordering and disordering impulses. Miller's unique and engaging readings of ancient Iceland's sagas and extensive legal code reconstruct and illuminate the society that produced them. People in the saga world negotiated a maze of violent possibility, with strategies that frequently put life and limb in the balance. But there was a paradox in striking the balance—one could not get even without going one better. Miller shows how blood vengeance, law, and peacemaking were inextricably bound together in the feuding process. This book offers fascinating insights into the politics of a stateless society, its methods of social control, and the role that a uniquely sophisticated and self-conscious law played in the construction of Icelandic society. "Illuminating."—Rory McTurk, Times Literary Supplement "An impressive achievement in ethnohistory; it is an amalgam of historical research with legal and anthropological interpretation. What is more, and rarer, is that it is a pleasure to read due to the inclusion of narrative case material from the sagas themselves."—Dan Bauer, Journal of Interdisciplinary History
The last fifty years have seen a significant change in the focus of saga studies, from a preoccupation with origins and development to a renewed interest in other topics, such as the nature of the sagas and their value as sources to medieval ideologies and mentalities. The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas presents a detailed interdisciplinary examination of saga scholarship over the last fifty years, sometimes juxtaposing it with earlier views and examining the sagas both as works of art and as source materials. This volume will be of interest to Old Norse and medieval Scandinavian scholars and accessible to medievalists in general.
Author: William Pencak
Release Date: 1995
The world's longest lasting republic between ancient Rome and modern Switzerland, medieval Iceland (c. 870-1262) centered its national literature, the great family sagas, around the problem of can a republic survive and do justice to its inhabitants. The Conflict of Law and Justice in the Icelandic Sagas takes a semiotic approach to six of the major sagas which depict a nation of free men, abetted by formidable women, testing conflicting legal codes and principles - pagan v. Christian, vengeance v. compromise, monarchy v. republicanism, courts v. arbitration. The sagas emerge as a body of great literature embodying profound reflections on political and legal philosophy because they do not offer simple solutions, but demonstrate the tragic choices facing legal thinkers (Njal), warriors (Gunnar), outlaws (Grettir), women (Gudrun of Laxdaela Saga), priests (Snorri of Eyrbyggja Saga), and the Icelandic community in its quest for stability and a good society. Guest forewords by Robert Ginsberg and Roberta Kevelson, set the book in the contexts of philosophy, semiotics, and Icelandic studies to which it contributes.
Author: William Ian Miller
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Release Date: 2014
Njals saga, the greatest of the sagas of the Icelanders, was written around 1280. It tells the story of a complex feud that starts innocently enough--in a tiff over seating arrangement at a local feast--and expands over the course of 20 years to engulf half the country, in which both sides are effectively exterminated, Njal and his family burned to death in their farmhouse, the other faction picked off over the entire course of the feud. Law and feud feature centrally in the saga, Njal, its hero, being the greatest lawyer of his generation. No reading of the saga can do it justice unless it takes its law, its feuding strategies, as well as the author's stunning manipulation and saga conventions. In 'Why is Your Axe Bloody?' W.I. Miller offers a lively, entertaining, and completely orignal personal reading of this lengthy saga.
Author: Mark S. Weiner
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: 2013-03-12
Genre: Political Science
A revealing look at the role kin-based societies have played throughout history and around the world A lively, wide-ranging meditation on human development that offers surprising lessons for the future of modern individualism, The Rule of the Clan examines the constitutional principles and cultural institutions of kin-based societies, from medieval Iceland to modern Pakistan. Mark S. Weiner, an expert in constitutional law and legal history, shows us that true individual freedom depends on the existence of a robust state dedicated to the public interest. In the absence of a healthy state, he explains, humans naturally tend to create legal structures centered not on individuals but rather on extended family groups. The modern liberal state makes individualism possible by keeping this powerful drive in check—and we ignore the continuing threat to liberal values and institutions at our peril. At the same time, for modern individualism to survive, liberals must also acknowledge the profound social and psychological benefits the rule of the clan provides and recognize the loss humanity sustains in its transition to modernity. Masterfully argued and filled with rich historical detail, Weiner's investigation speaks both to modern liberal societies and to developing nations riven by "clannism," including Muslim societies in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Author: Jesse L Byock
Release Date: 2001
Medieval Iceland was unique amongst Western Europe, with no foreign policy, no defence forces, no king, no lords, no peasants and few battles. It should have been a utopia yet its literature is dominated by brutality and killing. The reasons for this, argues Jesse Byock, lie in the underlying structures and cultural codes of the islands' social order. 'Viking Age Iceland' is an engaging, multi-disciplinary work bringing together findings in anthropology and ethnography interwoven with historical fact and masterful insights into the popular Icelandic sagas, this is a brilliant reconstruction of the inner workings of a unique and intriguing society.
Author: Christopher J. Peters
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2011-01-19
Law often purports to require people, including government officials, to act in ways they think are morally wrong or harmful. What is it about law that can justify such a claim? In A Matter of Dispute: Morality, Democracy, and Law, Christopher J. Peters offers an answer to this question, one that illuminates the unique appeal of democratic government, the peculiar structure of adversary adjudication, and the contested legitimacy of constitutional judicial review. Peters contends that law should be viewed primarily as a device for avoiding or resolving disputes, a function that implies certain core properties of authoritative legal procedures. Those properties - competence and impartiality - give democracy its advantage over other forms of government. They also underwrite the adversary nature of common-law adjudication and the duties and constraints of democratic judges. And they ground a defense of constitutionalism and judicial review against persistent objections that those practices are "counter-majoritarian" and thus nondemocratic. This work canvasses fundamental problems within the diverse disciplines of legal philosophy, democratic theory, philosophy of adjudication, and public-law theory and suggests a unified approach to unraveling them. It also addresses practical questions of law and government in a way that should appeal to anyone interested in the complex and often troubled relationship among morality, democracy, and the rule of law. Written for specialists and non-specialists alike, A Matter of Dispute explains why each of us individually, and all of us collectively, have reason to obey the law - why democracy truly is a system of government under law.
Author: Martin Arnold
Release Date: 2003
Genre: Literary Collections
This book aims to establish theoretical principles for analyzing the group of late 13th and 14th century Isendingasorgur (Icelandic family sagas) traditionally designated as post-colonial. Two periods of icelandic history are examined: Medieval period and the 19th and early 20th centuries.
We tend to think of a feud as being a long established state of hostilities, especially between families or clans, which normally manifests itself in revengeful violence. One of the articles in this volume thus states: "What began as a dispute over the property rights of a woman to whom both parties were related quickly mutated into a violent clash between men, in which honour and reputation were at stake -- and from here to a full-blown feud the distance was rather short". However, the studies of feuds presented in this publication leave no doubt that they were very different in different societies. The phenomenon of feud turns out to be intimately connected with developments in society and state. Consequently, in recent years a growing interest has been aroused in further researching the topic and the aim of this book is therefore to present some of the principal positions of this new research. Contributions by leading scholars in the field cover a large span of years, from the classic Icelandic feuds of the Sagas to more recent Early-Modern incidents. One contribution even takes us back to the roots of mankind, but the focus of the book is mainly on the Medieval and Early-Modern period. The volume is opened with a comprehensive introduction to the field, followed by a chapter that seeks general definitions. Hereafter, we are presented with specific cases of Icelandic women from the Sagas who promote feuds, studies of feuds in 14th century Marseilles, Italian Medieval vendettas, and feuding in Medieval Germany and Denmark.