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Awkward adolescents: Male maturation in norse literature

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Chapter Summary

This chapter deals strictly with an Old Norse imaginary, but one which is formed by a historical reality. Of the five major areas of adolescent anxiety identified by Steinberg, identity, autonomy, intimacy, sexuality and achievement, three (identity, autonomy and achievement) are demonstrably at stake in saga accounts of adolescence. The chapter explores how saga texts are likely to have inherited two paradigms of adolescence from heroic tradition, and assimilated them to - what the author hesitates to call realist modes - but rather, particular psychological and sociological understandings of the processes of adolescence. It discusses two family sagas, and two fornaldarsögur, analysing the portrayal of the protagonist’s adolescence primarily in terms of intra-familial and extrafamilial (largely peer) relations. The adolescent theme is treated distinctively in the different sagas, and it is by no means the case that the fornaldarsögur are less psychological than the family sagas.

Keywords: adolescence; Norse literature



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