Course Syllabus

World of the Vikings

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Wergeland Norwegians land in Iceland

Semester & Location:

Fall 2021 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Study Tour:


Major Discipline:


Related Disciplines:

Literature, Religious Studies

Faculty Member:

Kim Bergqvist, 

Program Director:

Andreas Brøgger, 

Program Coordinator:

Sanne Rasmussen, 

Time & Place:

Monday & Thursday 8.30-9.50


COVID-19 statement

We all have a collective responsibility to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at DIS. Throughout this semester, please monitor yourself carefully for symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, high temperature, breathing difficulties, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, loss of smell/taste). If you experience any of these symptoms, please stay home and contact the DIS emergency phone. The respondent will coordinate with Academics at DIS Stockholm, who will in turn contact your individual faculty. If you are otherwise well but isolating due to possible exposure or mild symptoms, it is your responsibility to keep up with your coursework - we will organize hybrid classes for you to join via Zoom. If you are unwell due to COVID-19 and unable to attend class or study, your absence will be excused. Your faculty will work with you to ensure you are able to make up missed course content due to illness. You are still responsible for completing any missed work. 

Description of Course

In this course, we study the history and worldview of pre-Christian Scandinavians as reflected in medieval textual sources and in poems and artifacts from the Viking Age (793­–1066 CE). We examine Norse society, political structures, gender ideals, religion and mythology. You learn about Viking expansion, colonies and conquests. An essential part of this interdisciplinary course is dedicated to medieval Icelandic sagas and how Vikings are portrayed in modern public history and contemporary popular culture.

Learning Objectives

Knowledge and understanding of:

  • the Viking Age and its legacy in the history, literature and landscape of Scandinavia
  • the social, political, and cultural structures of the Norse peoples, including their gender aspects
  • Viking Age mythology, religion, and conversion
  • sources to the Viking Age and how scholars in different disciplines go about creating knowledge of this remote period
  • Icelandic sagas and other Viking literary texts from a literary and historical perspective
  • how the Vikings and their legacy live on and a critical attitude to how they are used in contemporary culture

Skills and competencies in:

  • applying historical source criticism
  • describing the form and function of medieval Icelandic literature
  • using literary analysis and theory
  • basic Old Norse

Faculty: Kim Bergqvist

PhD Candidate in History, Department of History/Centre for Medieval Studies, Stockholm University. MA (2010) and BA (2008) Stockholm University, both with a major in History, minors in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Visiting Scholar to Columbia University (2016), Cornell University (2014) and the University of Navarra, Spain (2012–13). Teaches medieval history at Stockholm University since 2012. ​Publications have appeared in The Medieval Chronicle and Collegium Medievale. Areas of specialization: medieval Scandinavia; medieval Iberia; comparative history; medieval literature, genre and fiction; political culture; gender history; the history of emotions. With DIS since 2018.




  • Abram, Christopher, Myths of the Pagan North: The Gods of the Northmen (Continuum, 2011). [Selection of chapters]
  • Eyrbyggja Saga, translated by Hermann Pálsson & Paul Edwards (Penguin Books, 1989).
  • Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World (Bloomsbury, 2020).
  • King Harald's saga: Harald Hardradi of Norway, from Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, translated by Magnus Magnusson & Hermann Pálsson (Penguin Books, 1966).
  • Haywood, John, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (Penguin Books, 1998).
  • Snorri Sturlusson, The Prose Edda, translated by Jean I. Young (University of California Press, 1954).
  • The Poetic Edda, translated by Carolyne Larrington (Oxford University Press, 1996). [Selection of eddic poetry]
  • Winroth, Anders, The Age of the Vikings (Princeton University Press, 2014).

Articles and excerpts

  • Barreiro, Santiago "Feud", in The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas, edited by Ármann Jakobsson and Sverrir Jakobsson (Routledge, 2017).
  • Blanck, Dag, "The Transnational Viking: The Role of the Viking in Sweden, the United States, and Swedish America," Journal of Transnational American Studies 7:1 (2016): 1–19.
  • Byock, Jesse L., Viking Age Iceland (Penguin, 2001). [Excerpt]
  • Evans, Gareth Lloyd, Men and Masculinities in the Sagas of Icelanders (Oxford University Press, 2019). [Excerpts].
  • Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte & Anna Kjellström, "The urban woman: on the role and identity of women in Birka," in Kvinner i vikingtid, edited by N. L. Coleman & N. Løkka, pp. 187–208 (Scandinavian Academic Press, 2014).
  • Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte. "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 164:4 (2017): 853–860.
  • Jesch, Judith, Women in the Viking age (Boydell, 1991). [Excerpts]
  • Jesch, Judith, The Viking Diaspora (Routledge, 2015). [Excerpt]
  • Montgomery, James E., "Ibn Fadlan and the Rūsiyyah," Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 3 (2000): 1–25.
  • Sanmark, Alexandra, "Women at the Thing," in Kvinner i vikingtid, edited by N. L. Coleman & N. Løkka, pp. 89–105 (Scandinavian Academic Press, 2014).
  • Shutters, Lynn, “Vikings Through the Eyes of an Arab Ethnographer: Constructions of the Other in The 13th Warrior, in Race, Class and Gender in "Medieval" Cinema, edited by L.T. Ramey and T. Pugh, pp. 75–87 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

Field studies

Field study 1: Visit to the Swedish History Museum (Historiska museet), Narvavägen

Field study 2: TBA

Study Tours: Sweden

On the short study tour during core course week, we will take our newfound knowledge of the Viking Age and examine its continued presence in the Swedish landscape: in burial mounds, runestones, and town plans. Explore the area that was home to important kings even before the Viking Age and continued to be so after its end. Amongst the royal grave mounds in Gamla Uppsala, the cultic center and supposed site of the Old Norse temple described by Adam of Bremen, we will experience a virtual reality image of the place 1,500 years ago. The rise and fall of nearby Birka as a commercial center and the foundation of Sigtuna, the royal Christian town where the Viking Age ended, can be experience here in the landscape of Uppland.

Uppsala University, the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477, is now home to one of the major research programs on Vikings. It is also prominent in archaeology, runology and the study of the Old Norse language and texts.

Please note that the format of the study tours will be affected by the ongoing pandemic related to COVID-19.

Approach to Teaching

I want to transmit and stimulate an enthusiastic approach to the history, literature and culture of the Viking Age from a wide and multidisciplinary perspective, and above all curiosity and a thirst for learning. I will not expect students to have prior knowledge of the subject at hand. However, after some introductory lectures I will anticipate students’ active engagement with the material in classroom discussions, group discussions, debates, and presentations. We will tackle the readings and the sources together in a collective and interactive learning experience, advancing our knowledge of the Viking Age.


Students are expected to read the materials for each class and actively participate in discussions. Students should come prepared to class with questions and points for discussion. When posing questions or participating in discussions, students should strive to refer to the readings to support the points they are making.


In order to receive a passing grade, you must complete all the assignments.

“Engagement” is your responsibility, so it is up to you what grade you receive in this area. Consider how often you discuss, comment or ask questions in class; how many absences you have during the course, how often you complete all the readings for class; how often you check your phone or Facebook or other non-class related media during a single class meeting. The use of laptops in class will be allowed, provided they are only used for taking notes during lectures or presentations.








Final paper


Description of Assignments

Written assignments should have a title, be double-spaced, 12 font with approximately 350 words per page. Students may refer to the MLA Handbook or a writing manual from their home universities. Just be consistent when using citations, footnoting, etc.


You will write three essays during the course (worth 15% each for a total of 45% of your grade). Each paper should be 4 to 5 pages, approx. 350 words per page, double-spaced, 12 font (i.e. around 1400-1750 words in total).

The essays are: 1) analytic argument essay; 2) close reading essay; and 3) comparative analysis essay.

More details will be provided in class.

Final research paper

For the final paper, you will write an academic essay or research paper (6-7 pages) on an Icelandic saga, using a theoretical approach or perspective of your choice, alternatively another topic of your choice that is relevant to the learning outcomes of the course. Approx. 350 words per page, double-spaced, 12 font (i.e. around 2000-2500 words in total). Use at outside sources (scholarly books or articles not among the required reading for the course). A 300-word abstract is due two weeks before the final deadline.

You are welcome to discuss possible topics for your paper with your instructor at any time during the semester!

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due