For longer than I've been writing poetry, I've been reading about, thinking about, and teaching about the culture of Commonwealth Iceland. My World History teacher, Mary McMullen, proudly pointed to Iceland as the first democracy, an idea that stuck with me for many years. Combine that lesson with the Lord of the Rings and other fantasy, and you get the seeds of my interest. Then I found the SCA and became more interested in the topic. As my interest grew, I began to read. At first, Jesse Byock, then the Saga literature, and on to deeper reading. These days, I'm taking my reading a step further to writing and teaching.
As I've moved along through this amateur research, I've gone back to my professional roots and have begun teaching in the SCA. Generally, I teach at four or five different events each year, usually two or three different classes at each event. So, I'm teaching ten to fifteen classes per year, trying not to repeat topics too often. All told, I have about twenty different classes I've taught, with two or three more either in active preparation or on my list. The topics range from Heraldry to Medieval Science to Icelandic Literature, Culture and History.
I've also written several "handouts" for these classes. An average handout looks more like an undergraduate college term paper, mostly informational, running ten to fifteen pages in length. I've posted two or three at academia.edu, but none recently. (Well, THAT changed last night. Now you can find almost all of my handouts at Academia) Please note that all of these are "works in progress" and that, while I'm happy to share them, I appreciate proper credit should you use them in your research.
The classes I'm offering the most often of late are as follows:
- Feuds in the Sagas - an overview of how feuds work in the sagas, what causes them, how they are played out and settled, and how feuds makes the sagas a distinct literary genre. This also includes a look at the social and legal structures of Commonwealth Iceland.
- inn Draugar, or the Viking Zombie - a look into the draugr or undead in the sagas. This class has been popular at Pennsic, as it has the "Z-word" in the title. It includes story-telling and analysis. And lawyers! (Maybe it should be titled "Heroes, Lawyers, and Zombies"?)
- How to build a Kenning with Ideas you have lying around in your Mind - a long title, eh? This class explores the kenning, the basic building block of Old Norse, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon poetry. It looks at types of kennings, how they are formed, and examples from period poetry, as well as from some of my poetry.
- Heraldic Underwear, or Aesthetic Philosophy and Heraldic Design - in another life, I've been a herald for more than 35 years. In that time, I've become more and more interested in how period aesthetic theory helps formulate the basic design principles of period armoury. This class attempts to draw some connections between the aesthetics of Aristotle and Aquinas and period design.
- Old Icelandic Manuscripts - an overview of the manuscripts written in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries in Iceland. This class was designed for scribes in the SCA, looking at how one can design scrolls for Old Icelandic-Norse personae. It looks at a selection of the manuscripts housed at the Arnamagnaen Institute in Reykjavik.
- The Dróttkvætt Metre - a look at the most formal of the Old Norse-Icelandic poetic forms, in both English and Old Norse.
- How Water Works - a medieval sciences class, looking at period beliefs about hydrology. How do the tides happen? How does saline water from the ocean become fresh water when it flows from the inland rivers and streams? How do the rivers have a constant source of water? Where did the waters from the Great Flood come from?
I'm also working on a new class, which I hope to debut in June at the Æthelmearc Æcademy session in Salem, WV:
- The Big-Man in Commonwealth Iceland - a look at the social and political structure of the Commonwealth Period (c. 930 - 1262) and its demise with the signing of the Gamli sáttmáli.
There are about ten other classes I have taught, mostly concerning heraldry or the use of rubrics in the SCA, and I'm always looking for new ideas, generally focusing on Commonwealth-era Iceland.
So, back to poetry.