The distributed author and the poetics of complexity: a comparative study of the sagas of Icelanders and Serbian epic poetry

Ranković, Slavica (2006) The distributed author and the poetics of complexity: a comparative study of the sagas of Icelanders and Serbian epic poetry. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.



The thesis brings together Íslendingasögur and srpske junačke pesme, two historically and culturally unrelated heroic literatures, literatures that had, nevertheless, converged upon a similar kind of realism. This feature in which they diverge from the earlier European epics - Beowulf, Nibelungenlied, La Chanson de Roland, is the focal point of this study. Rather than examining it solely in terms of verisimilitude and historicism with which it is commonly associated, I am approaching it as an emergent feature (emergent realism) of the non-linear, evolutionary dynamics of their production (i.e. their networked, negotiated authorship), the dynamics I call the distributed author.

Although all traditional narratives develop in accordance with this dynamics, their non-linearity is often compromised by Bakhtinian 'centripetal forces' (e.g. centralised state, Church) with an effect of directedness akin to the authorial agency of an individual. The peculiar weakness of such forces in the milieus in which the sagas/Serbian epics grew, encouraged their distributed nature. As a result, they come across as indexes of their own coming into being, preserving, meshing and contrasting the old and the new, the general and the more idiosyncratic perspectives on past events and characters. In so doing they fail to arouse in the recipient the feeling of being addressed and possibly manipulated by an all encompassing organising authority. As a consequence, they also impress as believable.

While chapters one and two of this study deal with theoretical and aesthetic implications of the two literatures' distributed authorship and their emergent realism, chapters three and four illustrate the ways in which these are manifested in the rich texture of the past and the complex make-up of the characters. The final chapter summarises major points of the thesis and suggests the poetics of complexity as a term particularly suitable to encapsulate the two literatures' common creative principles.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Jesch, J.
Norris, D.A.
Uncontrolled Keywords:sagas, Serbian epic poetry
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English Studies
ID Code:2098
Deposited By:Ms. K EVANS
Deposited On:05 Jul 2011 13:48
Last Modified:05 Jul 2011 13:56

Archive Staff Only: item control page