Deafness and nonspeaking in late medieval Iceland (1200–1550)

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Disability and Deaf studies offer differing yet complementing approaches toward the investigation of deaf and nonspeaking characters in late medieval Icelandic texts. Through these approaches, which focus on the individuals and their lives as well as their ability to communicate with the hearing world, this article shifts its attention to the experiences of these characters rather than any symbolic meanings their literary representation might hold. The article is divided into four main sections, considering prose from the Icelandic sagas and various legal sources. The first focuses on the communicative possibilities that deaf and nonspeaking people had recourse to in their private and public lives. The second examines the participation by deaf and nonspeaking people in the political and legal activities so prominent in medieval Icelandic culture. The third section turns to the race, class and gender considerations of society’s approach toward deaf and nonspeaking people, stressing the issues of gender, class, and race. Lastly, the article considers accounts of people miraculously acquiring and reacquiring speech and hearing through the mediation of saints.

Original languageEnglish
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Pages (from-to)311-344
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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