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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Apocalypse Now and Then Seminar - The Belief Contexts and Performance of Völuspá: Considerations Regarding the Nordic Judgement Day

13th December 2010, 17:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Professor Terry Gunnell (University of Reykjavik)

This is the fifth seminar in the Apocalypse Now and Then Seminar Series.

Depictions of apocalypse - understood as revelation and/or the end of the world, in both religious and secular discourses - serve a variety of functions, ranging from the political to the scientific, and the theological to the anthropological. They can reinforce or subvert power structures, interrogate what it is to be human, and figure the future in order to reflect on the present.

This interdisciplinary seminar series brings together experts from a number of disciplines to reflect on two intertwined themes. The first explores the functions served by end-of-world narratives and pictures, that is, it focuses on why apocalyptic stories are told rather than on what particular stories are told. The second analyses the ways in which the apocalyptic is characterized by a relationship with particular sorts of form, language and image, for example, metaphors and fictions, pictures, performances, and poems.

Most people agree that the Eddic poem Völuspá contains the most powerful image of the "Nordic apocalypse". They also agree that whether the poem was "composed" by a single poet or developed over time within the Nordic oral tradition, it must have lived for over a century, if not for considerably longer, within the oral tradition before it came to be recorded as a piece of writing. This means that it was presented and received as a form of sound and mental image within a particular living context. In this lecture, the intention is to examine not only the powerful tonal and visual aspects of the apocalyptic sections of the poem, but also the potential performance context in which its performers (and composer?) expected it to be received.

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