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Women in Old Norse Society [Perfect Paperback]

Jenny Jochens
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 26, 1998 0801485207 978-0801485206
Jenny Jochens captures in fascinating detail the lives of women in pagan and early Christian Iceland and Norway—their work, sexual behavior, marriage customs, reproductive practices, familial relations, leisure activities, religious practices, and legal constraints and protections. Women in Old Norse Society places particular emphasis on changing sexual mores and the impact of Christianity as imposed by the clergy and Norwegian kings. It also demonstrates the vital role women played in economic production.

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Women in Old Norse Society + Women in the Viking Age + The Vikings: Revised Edition
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Editorial Reviews


"Jochens's study is a model of interdisciplinary techniques and research; she carefully describes her sources—largely laws and sagas of various types—and their limitations, and then draws from them information, such as the etymology of key words ('wife,' 'husband'), possible only for a linguistic scholar of her caliber."—Choice.

"Although a number of scholars have begun in recent years to approach Old Norse literature from a feminist perspective, Jenny Jochens has been the only historian in the United States to use gender analysis to study the society represented in that literature. . . . Jochens brings to bear on the Icelandic material a very broad range of knowledge: not only the Old Norse sources in all their complexity but also the body of scholarship in women's history and feminist theory. . . . This book can be read with profit by all medievalists and is essential reading for anyone interested in Old Norse society."—Speculum.

"A thoroughly rewarding book. . . . The section on economics and production of wadmal and shaggy overcoats deserves close attention as the best treatment in English of an important topic hitherto neglected."—E. Christiansen, English Historical Review

". . .Jenny Jochens has been one of the most prolific scholars working on the perennially interesting theme of the role played by women and scholars in Old Icelandic history and literature. Thus the prospect of seeing this theme developed at book length, not once but twice, fills the reader with pleasant anticipation. These two volumes . . . do not disappoint, in that they present a wealth of fascinating detail, never before collected to this extent. These volumes offer a full picture of the lives of medieval Icelandic women, covering 'Marriage', 'Reproduction', 'Leisure', 'Work', and 'The Economics of the Homespun'."—Judith Jesch. Saga-Book vol. 15 #1.

"Well documented and well presented, Women in Old Norse Society covers much material that has not been dealt with in English. It serves the dual purpose of establishing a focus on women and of providing an enormous amount of good cultural history."—Theodore M. Andersson, Indiana University and Stanford University

Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (March 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801485207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801485206
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,184,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars scholarly yet highly readable June 6, 2000
Format:Perfect Paperback
This is Jochen's companion volume to "Old Norse Images of Women," which focuses on images of women in Norse literature. These literary images *may* be more Christian patriarchal fantasy than real. "Women in Old Norse Society" looks at the reality of women in the Viking Age, using the Icelandic Sagas and the recorded Laws as the main sources of information. Jochens argues that the sagas are both historical and literary sources.
Paganism lasted much longer in Scandinavia than the rest of Europe, which meant women there enjoyed a more equal relationship with men for a considerably longer time. Jochens explores the Pagan-Christian conflict very fairly, looking at both the advantages and disadvantages the shift to Christianity brought for women. For example, in pagan times women had little say in whom they married, and Christianity brought the advantage of female consent. Jochens looks in great detail at important female issues such as marriage, reproduction, leisure and work. Especially fascinating is the "economics of homespun," or how women's economic contribution of woven cloth eventually became the main medium of exchange.
One of my favourite aspects of Jochen's writing is her frequent use of Old Norse words, clearly explained, adding a fascinating linquistic layer. She references her work meticulously, making it a very scholarly read, yet it is highly readable for anyone interested in women's history.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing amount of information April 2, 2000
By B. Juul
Format:Perfect Paperback
It is amazing how much information she managed to pack into this book, without overwhelming the reader AND with keeping it interesting. She included Old Norse (Icelandic?) language in the text without taking away from the content or causing confusion. (I don't speak either.) It actually added to the book. She covered all facets of Norse society and also noted the differences between how the Icelandic and Norse cultures developed over the years. It is definately a book that I recommend for anyone interested in historic Norse society, especially the female culture.
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11 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Women in Old Norse Society August 7, 2002
Format:Perfect Paperback
This is a very interesting book. She uses Christian books to understand women's role in Pagan Iceland. It seems to me she goes out of her way to find female suffering. If the Christians say something negative about the Pagans. She sees that as a fact, but if a Christian shows women with power in Pagan Iceland, then she thinks this is just a Christian romance of their Pagan forebearers.
This is a good book, but with flaws.
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