The Conflict of Law and Justice in the Icelandic Sagas.
Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA, 1995, XXI, 178 pp.
Value Inquiry Book Series 21
"While the imaginary and historical worlds of medieval Iceland reside in the distant past, the conflicts and concepts of the great sagas spring to life in present-day philosophical reflection upon the limits and values of a republican form of constitution."
Scandinavian Review, Volume 83, 1995
"The book offers interesting observations. ... the study opens up provocative new lines of thought, it should stimulate further discussion."
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Volume 96, Nr. 1, 1997
The world's longest lasting republic between ancient Rome and modern Switzerland, medieval Iceland (c. 870-1262) centered its national literature, the great family sagas, around the problem of can a republic survive and do justice to its inhabitants. The Conflict of Law and Justice in the Icelandic Sagas takes a semiotic approach to six of the major sagas which depict a nation of free men, abetted by formidable women, testing conflicting legal codes and principles - pagan v. Christian, vengeance v. compromise, monarchy v. republicanism, courts v. arbitration. The sagas emerge as a body of great literature embodying profound reflections on political and legal philosophy because they do not offer simple solutions, but demonstrate the tragic choices facing legal thinkers (Njal), warriors (Gunnar), outlaws (Grettir), women (Gudrun of Laxdaela Saga), priests (Snorri of Eyrbyggja Saga), and the Icelandic community in its quest for stability and a good society. Guest forewords by Robert Ginsberg and Roberta Kevelson, set the book in the contexts of philosophy, semiotics, and Icelandic studies to which it contributes.
Contents: Map of Iceland. List of Illustrations. Editorial Foreword by Robert GINSBERG. Guest Foreword by Roberta KEVELSON. Author's Preface. ONE Introduction: The Historical and Philosophical Context. TWO The Hero and the Sage: Njal's Saga. THREE The Great Outlaw: Grettir's Saga. FOUR Exceptional Women: Laxdaela Saga. FIVE The Poet: Egil's Saga. SIX Common Folk and Chieftains: Bandamanna Saga and "Ale-Hood". SEVEN Community Problems: Eyrbyggja Saga. EIGHT Epilogue: On the Best Form of Government and the Persistence of Republics. Notes. Notes on Translations and Spelling. Chronologies. Illustrations. Bibliography. About the Author. Index of Principal Characters. Index of Places, Subjects, and Non-Saga People.