The Mind of the Raven

The Mind of the Raven

Every day Odin’s two ravens, Memory and Mind, fly over the entire earth to relate back to the one-eyed god the details and happenings of the world. By the 12th century Icelandic belief in the old gods had waned significantly but the new writing that was beginning to take hold was steeped in a nostalgia for the past, the golden age of Vikings. Stories of shapeshifters, sorcerers, magical birds, and resplendent heroes all culminating in a doomed future marked this unique storytelling tradition, the Icelandic Family Saga. “The Mind of the Raven” explores this transformation from a nascent and derivative literary form to one of the greatest and most narratively intricate textual bodies in the medieval period, paying attention to the psychology of folk belief and collective experience, religion and fjord politics. As you embark upon this journey into the North will you follow the raven’s eye across the mystical boundaries of memory and mind or will you be swallowed by the great wolf who rages to destroy all thought? As the seeress says, “Do you seek to know more, or what?”


Students explore the intersection of topics by taking the following course package:

UGST 109 First-Year Experience Seminar - 1-credit

SCAN 259 Vikings through the Icelandic Sagas - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits​​​​​​

There is nothing quite like the ‘Sagas of the Icelanders’ or ‘Family Sagas.’ Falling somewhere between historical novel and prose epic, these fusions of history, genealogy, vita, and legend are composed against the grain of European aesthetics. They are prose narratives written in a vernacular tongue, saturated with an inexhaustible violence, recounting the exploits and affairs of Iceland’s greatest families. In this course, students will explore the notion that by the time we get the heyday of saga production in the middle of the 13th century, the art form is already in decay. This art form gives us some of medieval literature’s brightest stars and roughest outlaws. The primary texts will be supplemented with secondary readings, including selections from the Book of Settlements and the great Icelandic law code, The Gray Goose.

PSY 202 Mind and Society - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Examines infant and child development, social psychology, personality, and psychopathologies. Shows how understanding the mind has implications for major social issues such as education, the promotion of tolerance, and our response to psychopathology.