Larry Swain to deliver Honors Council Lecture on Vikings in ancient literature

BEMIDJI, Minn. (Oct. 18, 2010) — In early 10th and 11th Century England, there existed two competing theologies of the Vikings, which were hotly debated policy options between the King of England and his noblemen. These competing theoloies gave birth to literary tales seeking to justify each option.

Dr. Larry Swain, assistant professor of English at Bemidji State University, will lecure about the literary responses to the Vikings and Kin Aethelred’s Viking policy during the University’s second Honors Council Lecture. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, in Hagg-Sauer Hall 112 on the Bemidji State campus.

The reign of Aethelraed witnessed the return of the Viking incursions into in late tenth/early eleventh century England with the result that after almost 40 years of constant attacks, Cnut the Great took the throne of England and helped set the stage for the Norman Conquest.

Three authors in this period penned texts that at first glance are unrelated to each other or to the larger political context of Aethelraed’s policies towards the Vikings. Swain argues that the pieces represent political statements at opposite ends of the spectrum regarding English response to Viking invasion. In between those two texts fell the writings of English abbot Aelfric Eynsham, whose work implicitly displayed an evolving and changing attitude toward the king and his Viking policy — from an extreme representation of Christ-like suffering in the face of a pagan invasion to an explicit call to arms to defeat the Vikings with the assistance of God.

Swain is an assistant professor of English at Bemidji State specializing in medieval and Renaissance literature. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Greek religion and linguistics from Seattle Pacific University and a master’s degree in medieval studies from Western Michigan. His doctorate in English with a specialization in medieval languages at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He will present a version of the paper presented in the Honors Council lecture at the Midwest Modern Language Association in November and regularly contributes to a number of blogs, including his own, dedicated to teaching medieval and Renaissance literature. He also edits the journal “The Heroic Age.”

The Honors Council Lecture Series is hosted by the Bemidji State University Honors Council. The council is the advisory group to the Honors Program comprised of 12 faculty members from all three of the University’s colleges. Student representatives also are elected to the council by their cohorts for one-year terms.

2010 Fall Honors Council Lecture Series remaining schedule
• Oct. 27, 7 p.m.: Larry Swain, assistant professor of English, “Texts of Terror: Theo-Literary Responses to the Vikings and King Aetheired’s Viking Policy.” Hagg-Sauer 112.
• Nov. 16, 6 p.m.: Film: “Baatan,” introduced by Tom Murphy, professor of history. Hagg-Sauer 112.
• Nov. 17, 7 p.m.: Tom Murphy, “Inevitable Triumph: World War II Films and the Idea of Victory.” Hagg-Sauer 112.

For more information about the Honors Council Lecture Series, please contact the honors program at (218) 755-3984.