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The term leizla in Old Norse vision literature – contrasting imported and indigenous genres?
Høgskolen i Bergen.
2016 (English)In: Scripta Islandica: Isländska Sällskapets Årsbok, ISSN 0582-3234, Vol. 67, 37-63 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article attempts to explain why the Latin genre designation visio, which literally means ‘sight, something seen, vision’, is translated into Old Norse predominantly as leizla, which literally means ‘leading, guiding’ (leið-sla). At thetime, visio, when used as a generic term, most often referred to Christian morally instructive narratives about people who journey to Heaven, Purgatory and Helland about what they see and experience there. Such journeys are undertaken involuntarily by the soul (anima, spiritus) of the person who is experiencing the vision while the body remains behind, lying still and usually lifeless because the person is close to death, dreaming or in some sort of trance. The author suggests that the term leizla was chosen in order to provide a contrast to the pre-existing Norse tradition of similar journeys. This included narratives similar tosuch visions, namely narratives about journeys to the realm of the dead and back again and about journeys undertaken during a trance with only the soul going abroad while the body remains behind. Yet while the Christian visio narratives at the time of the earliest Old Norse translations usually feature a guide, often an angel or a saint, leading the visionary through the otherworld, there is no guide featured in the indigenous Norse narratives; in these, people always travel alone. This difference may be exactly what is indicated by the term leið-sla. The author evaluates this theory in relation to the translation of vision narratives from Latin into other Northern, Eastern and Western European languages during the Middle Ages and concludes that, within the (West) Norse area, visionary narratives of this kind were translated during a period of time when the need for a precisedesignation – leizla, ‘guiding’ – was greater there than in other geographical-linguistic areas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Isländska sällskapet , 2016. Vol. 67, 37-63 p.
Keyword [en]
European vision literature, Old Norse vision literature, vernacular literature, leizla, Old Norse literature, Old Norse translated literature, Old Norse literary genres, Old Norse mythology, Eddic poetry, Heaven and Hell, Sami religion
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-310197OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-310197DiVA: diva2:1058788
Available from: 2016-12-21 Created: 2016-12-12 Last updated: 2017-01-11Bibliographically approved

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