Undermining Vengeance: Distancing and Anti-feminism in the Guðrún Poems

David Clark

in Gender, Violence, and the Past in Edda and Saga

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654307
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191742071 | DOI:
Undermining Vengeance: Distancing and Anti-feminism in the Guðrún Poems

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Vengeance is of central importance to the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda; it underpins the action of each one. This first chapter focuses on the final four poems of the Codex Regius—Atlakviða, Atlamál, Guðrúnarhvöt, and Hamðismál—since they constitute a manageable body of material for close analysis, unified by the figure of Guðrún, although containing significantly different perspectives on revenge. It is argued that the hero in these poems (whether male or female) is distanced and represented as belonging to the past, and that Hamðismál and Atlakviða even seek to undermine the heroic ideal of vengeance. The chapter also asks whether the portrayal of Guðrún is anti-feminist, or in fact represents an autonomous female figure, in control of her own destiny, using gender theorists such as Carol Clover and Pamela Robertson.

Keywords: vengeance; Poetic Edda; Guðrún; heroic ideal; anti-feminist; gender theory

Chapter.  10464 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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