Old Norse Sheds New Light in the Humanities Department

By: Mycah Houser

This semester, Trine’s Humanities department kickstarted a new “Old Norse” class where students have been learning to speak the language. In a STEM-focused school, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The independent study is taught by Dr. Mayus, who specializes in Medieval Studies.

In this course, students have been translating texts such as “Hrolf’s Saga” from Old Norse into modern English.

“We’ve translated only a chapter of the saga, but for three students who knew nothing about the language coming into the course, I think how fast we’re moving along is really impressive,” Beatrice Snavely, a student in this course, said.

Beatrice’s interest was peaked last year when she took Viking Literature with Dr. Mayus. Students of all majors learned about Icelandic history and read various Icelandic sagas, ranging from The Prose Edda to The Saga of the Volsungs.

These unique classes are also engaging for non-Humanities students.

“My required courses are always grounded in theory and math practice, so it was nice that in Viking Lit there wasn’t one correct answer in what you thought,” Lake Wann, an electrical engineer who took Viking Literature, said, “Engineers can’t really have an academic discussion about how transistors or logic gates make them feel, but in Viking Lit we could debate if a blood feud was petty or justified.”

Viking Lit Project

Old Norse and Viking Literature are complemented by History of the English Language, where students trace the evolution of the English language from its Germanic roots. This bi-annual class provides a linguistic basis that students can carry over to specialty courses such as Old Norse.

Keep an eye out for these unique courses—you may never have the chance again!