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Education and Courses

The departments of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, History and Classical Studies, The Study of Religion, and Scandinavian Languages and Literature offer regular BA and MA semester courses on Old Norse and Viking Age subjects, as well as annual summer schools. All teaching in these subjects is in English, and includes international guest lecturers which create an international milieu and learning environment.

Spring Semester 2020:

The Afterlife of the Viking Age (BA, 10 ECTS)

The course deals with reception and heritage, and the ways in which ideas of the historical past are constructed and changed to fit into new contexts. The focal point of the lectures and readings will be the Nordic world, particularly the so-called Viking Age. The Viking Age is a pertinent case because of the multiple ramifications of that period across time and space.

The course presents different theories and perspectives of relevance for reception and heritage (e.g., theories about memory, media, adaptation and heritage tourism; antiquarianism, medievalism, etc.).

The course will engage with (in principle) all kinds of reception, such as literary, religious, political and cultural, in Scandinavia, Europe and the wider world, and with textual, visual and material representations from the Middle Ages to our contemporary times.

Among the topics to be discussed are, firstly, the stereotypes and images of the Viking Age and the appropriation of Norse stories and legends that circulate in popular culture and contemporary media; and secondly, the relevance and function of the Viking Age as a central component in the cultural memory of groups of people. We will ask questions such as: When, and where, did the idea of the Viking Age and the Vikings take form? Why is there such a widespread interest in the Viking Age, for instance, in North America? For whom, when and in which contexts has the Viking Age functioned as an identity forming factor? How are medieval Icelandic sagas and Old Norse myths adapted in, for example, literature, film and music? Is Viking heritage tourism a national or an international phenomenon? To what extent is the Viking Age an integral phenomenon that connects cultures, and to what extent does its uses create boundaries?

Summer Schools 2020:

Histories and Languages of the Viking Age: Old Norse and Medieval Latin, 13th to 24th July 2020 (BA, 10 ECTS)

This course gives students both an overview of the theory and practice of Viking Age history, and an in-depth introduction to the languages of Old Norse and medieval Latin in the context of historical source texts. The course enables students with no prior knowledge of these languages to engage directly with primary source material, and provides a cross-disciplinary view of the history and historiography of the Viking Age. The course consists on the one hand of language teaching with direct reference to excerpts from Old Norse and Latin texts, and on the other of seminar-style lectures on the theory and practice of Viking Age history.

For students in the Old Norse stream, language classes begin with an overview of the genres of Scandinavian saga prose, paying special attention to the historical writings which describe the Viking Age. Students progress to texts which describe the drama of exploration and settlement across the North Atlantic to Iceland and Greenland. Finally, students are given an introduction to the basic principles of sub-disciplines including runology and mythology. In addition to using sources from these various genres to provide examples of language use, the lessons emphasise the continuities and connections between different forms of Old Norse writing.

For students in the medieval Latin stream, language classes begin with an introduction to the continuities and innovations of medieval Latin in relation to classical Latin. The students begin with excerpts from annals written outside Scandinavia, describing the turmoil of Northern Europe in the early medieval period, e.g. the Annales Bertiniani. Latin prose written by non-Scandinavians, such as Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis, is examined from a linguistic and historical vantage point. Finally, the opportunities and challenges of High Medieval and Late Medieval/Renaissance texts are discussed. We will begin with the Latin written by those who were persecuted by vikings, and conclude with the vital importance of Latin for understanding the realities and mentalities of medieval Scandinavia.

The Archaeology of the Viking Age: The Making of Maritime Scandinavia, 27th July to 14th August 2020 (BA, 10 ECTS)     

The Viking Age (c. 750 – 1050 AD) was essentially a formative period of European history. During this time, Scandinavians were to leave their mark across Europe and beyond, and contributed to shaping the world we live in today. With their discovery and colonization of Iceland, Greenland and America the Vikings expand the borders of the known world. Archaeology shows the Viking Age as a transformation of societies within and beyond Scandinavia.

The course gives an in-depth introduction to the archaeology of the Scandinavia and Northern Europe, and frames this in the perspective of an interdisciplinary field of research. The focus is on the cultural and societal transformation of Scandinavia and its neighbors in the period c. 600-1100 CE in the context of the catalyzing expansion of maritime interactions. Themes include: The expansion of maritime activities and ship-building, diaspora communities and identities, martial society and gender roles, colonization and climate, urban networks and globalization and cultural interactions with Slavs, Finns, Balts and Sami, Franks and Anglo Saxons.

Lectures and seminars provide a thorough founding in the archaeological study of the period, whilst training skills in navigating a problem-oriented approach: how to appreciate the difference between a convincing-looking argument and a settled case.

Cooperation with other universities

Nordic Master’s Programme

The MA programme in Scandinavian Languages and Literature at Aarhus University cooperates with The University of Iceland, The University of Copenhagen and The University of Oslo in offering a Nordic Master’s Programme in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies.  The programme is designed for international students (language of instruction is English) and makes it possible for students to move between at least two of the cooperating universities during their study. The programme started in the autumn of 2012. Nordic Master’s Programme

Watch this video about Viking and Old Norse Studies at Aarhus University: Click here


Harvard Summer School in Scandinavia

Since 2007, Aarhus University, Scandinavian Languages and Literature, has hosted The Harvard Summer School in Scandinavia. The topic of the summer school is Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, and it consists of two interrelated courses: Viking Studies: Lore and Literature and Viking Studies: History and Archaeology. Classes are taught on campus in the Nobel Park (Department of Scandinavian Studies and Experience Economy), as well as on location, when students and professors take excursions to famous Viking and medieval sites throughout Denmark and neighbouring countries. Since 2011, an archaeological field school has been connected to the summer school. Harvard Summer School


Erasmus Network

The departments of History and Classical Studies, The Study of Religion, and Scandinavian Languages and Literature is part of the ERASMUS network Supernatural Spaces in Old Norse Literature and Culture, which is a teaching mobility network between universities in Aarhus, Bonn, Cagliari, Oslo, Prague, Reyjakvik, Rzeszow, and Tartu.