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TRN197H: In the Shadow of the Vikings

TRN197H: In the Shadow of the Vikings: Depictions of the Early Norse in Medieval, Modern, and Post-Modern Culture

Course Description

Since the early nineteenth century, the word “viking” has been popularly used to describe Scandinavians who marauded along the frontiers of medieval Europe: in this respect, “the Viking” is as much a modern, as it is a medieval, creation. Although “viking activities” feature in the history of several modern European nations, aspects of “viking culture” have — for better and worse — persisted in modern literature, art, music, sport, and popular culture, including several spiritual and extremist political movements. This seminar will explore how and why various post-Viking Age cultures and subcultures have interpreted and selectively appropriated both real and imagined elements of “the Viking past.”

Seminar participants read and discuss selected medieval and modern texts, along with recent multidisciplinary scholarship that addresses how “vikings” have been portrayed in the popular imagination, past and present. Evaluation is based upon productive engagement in discussions and four short written assignments; in addition, students will propose and present a research-based project that addresses a select aspect of “Viking medievalism.”

2023-2024 Course Instructor

Jonathan Herold


BA, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; MA and PhD, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

I study pragmatic aspects of early medieval literate culture, particularly early record-keeping practices and artifacts of ephemeral, epigraphic, and numismatic writing in Northwestern Europe and the North Atlantic region. My interests focus on investigating how issues of trust were negotiated and established among people who lived and travelled along the frontiers of early medieval Europe.

In addition to the “viking-themed” undergraduate seminars that I direct for Trinity College, I also teach courses on medieval European history at York University’s Glendon campus, and have conducted several continuing education workshops focusing on aspects of medieval European history and archaeology offered through the Royal Ontario Museum. My publications include contributions to Early Peoples of Britain and Ireland:  an encyclopedia (ed. C. Snyder; Greenwood, 2008), Great Events in Religion:  an encyclopedia of pivotal events in Religious History (A. Holt and F. Curta, eds.; ABC-CLIO, 2016), and Constructing History across the Norman Conquest:  Worcester, c. 1050 – c. 1150 (F. Tinti and D. A. Woodman, eds.; Boydell and Brewer, 2022).

Jonathan Herold
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