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2020 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

2. Digital Mapping and the Narrative Stratigraphy of Iceland

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Abstract

The relationship between narrative and place in Iceland (as elsewhere) is an intricate and symbiotic one that is always in process. Digital mapping tools make it possible to take steps towards establishing chronologies of storied places. In addition, such tools aid in the interrogation and characterisation of the reciprocal dynamics of story and place in Iceland in ways not conceivable before. The ongoing Icelandic Saga Map (ISM) project attempts to link Iceland’s rich medieval textual corpus with the country’s geography, thus facilitating a better understanding of the various functions the landscape fulfils in the medieval sagas and in other works, as well as encouraging reflection on the role that landscape has played in the transmission and reception of these works over a time-period of a millennium or so. This chapter provides an overview of the medieval Icelandic textual corpus and a description of some technical aspects of the ISM project, followed by a discussion that focuses on the methodological challenges encountered and theoretical insights gained from the mapping process. Examples drawn from the most famous of all sagas, Njáls saga, provide a sense of the complexity of correspondences between textual representations of Icelandic landscape and its ‘real-world’ counterpart(s).
Footnotes
1
Some of the text in sections 2 and 5 has been adapted from an earlier publication (Lethbridge and Hartman 2016).
 
3
Funding has been received from The Icelandic Research Council/RANNÍS (as part of a Rannsóknasjóður research grant awarded 2014–2016 for the project ‘Time, space and narrative in the Icelandic sagas’, PI Torfi Tulinius with co-PIs Emily Lethbridge and Gísli Sigurðsson; also as part of a Rannsóknasjóður Sigrúnar Ástrósar Sigurðardóttur og Haralds Sigurðssonar grant awarded 2015 for the project ‘Landnámabók og kortasaga Íslands’, PI Emily Lethbridge); The University of Iceland/Háskóli Íslands (as part of a Rannsóknasjóður research grant awarded in 2016 for the project ‘Insight and imagination: Saga pilgrimages mapped and measured’, PI Emily Lethbridge; also in 2015 as first prize for the annual University of Iceland applied science Hagnýtingarverðlaun competition); and the National Science Foundation (as part of a RIDIR grant awarded in 2016–2020 to the dataARC project, PI Colleen Strawhacker, grant numbers 1637076). The website is hosted by the University of Iceland/Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Research. The principal programmer for the project is Trausti Dagsson though a proof-of-concept prototype was built by Logi Ragnarsson in 2012. Other project members are: Zachary Melton, Hjördís Erna Sigurðardóttir and Gísli Pálsson.
 
4
The ‘Mapping the Lakes: A Literary GIS’ project developed at the University of Lancaster by David Cooper, Ian Gregory, Sally Bushell and Zoe Bolton (https://​www.​lancaster.​ac.​uk/​mappingthelakes/​GIS%20​Contacts.​htm, Gregory and Cooper 2009; Cooper and Gregory 2010) was one early inspiration for this part of the ISM project.
 
8
A good example here is the case of modern place-names in the valley of Hrafnkelsdalur in east Iceland, and their relationship with place-names in Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða. See, for example, discussion in Rafnsson.
 
9
These place-names are also mentioned in the slightly younger place-name descriptions (‘örnefnalýsingar’) for Bergþórshvoll collected by the Place-name Institute of Iceland (Örnefnastofnun Íslands), now archived at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Research in Reykjavík.
 
10
The manuscript in question is AM 133 fol. (Kálfalækjarbók); the reading is at 79 recto. In English translation, the text reads “they ride up to the mountain and to a certain valley which has since been called Flosadalur.”
 
11
The direct echo between the two texts (‘the memory of man’) is striking: it might be coincidental but borrowings from older travel accounts are common and intertextuality is one of the features of this body of writing (Lethbridge 2020).
 
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Metadata
Title
Digital Mapping and the Narrative Stratigraphy of Iceland
Author
Emily Lethbridge
Copyright Year
2020
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-37569-0_2

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