Any assumption of ineffable or untranslatable cognitive data would be a contradiction in terms. But in jest, in dreams, in magic, briefly, in what one would call everyday verbal mythology and in poetry above all, the grammatical categories carry a high semantic import. In these conditions, the question of translation becomes much more entangled and controversial.
—  Roman Jakobson, “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation”
Roman Jakobson and Claude Lévi-Strauss

“Linguistics and Poetics” (1960)

I am not a linguist, but linguistic theory has understandably had a huge impact on the critical study of literature.

Roman Jakobson, like Shklovsky, was interested in exploring the formal function of language on poetics. The question that he hoped to answer was what makes a verbal or written message a work of art. As a linguist, Jakobson built on the work of Saussure (this seems to be a recurring pattern here), expanding on and questioning some of Saussure’s basic notions about the arbitrariness of language and the linearity of the sign. Many of the poetic features that Jakobson notes apply more generally to semiotics, and thus have an application to the study of film and painting as well as language proper.

“The poetic function is not the sole function of verbal art, but only its dominant, determining function” (1264).

from “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances” (1956)

In this short excerpt, under the heading “The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles,” Jakobson lays out the two poles of how meaning is created: relations of similarity, or metaphor, and relations of contiguity, or metonymy. These are how we create value.

Jakobson noted the predominance of one or the other in various types of literature. In the Romantic and Symbolist poets, he noted the primacy of the metaphoric register. In Realist work, metonymy. Jackobson also noted that this oscillation of relations also occurs in other sign systems as well. In film for instance, the close-ups favoured by Griffith were of the metonymic register, while the montage in Chaplin and Eisenstein was more metaphoric. He coins these “filmic similes.”

This structural analysis based on linguistics can be a useful tool and give a critic or theorist a way to get a strong handle on a work.

Jakobson’s friend Claude Lévi-Strauss attempted to apply this same kind of Saussurean structuralism to cultural studies. In his famous book, Structural Anthropology, Lévi-Strauss looks at cultural phenomena as forms of communication, including myths.

I read Chapter XI of the book, “The Structural Study of Myth,” in which Lévi-Strauss investigates the role and function of myths. He compares the seeming arbitrariness of myth against the similarities of myths across cultures and regions. Thus, the link between linguistics and mythology is in how meaning is made in relations between myths.

For Lévi-Strauss, “myth is language” (209). He applies even more linguistic analysis to his exploration of myths, using the term mythemes to describe the discrete units of myths that he is comparing. Thus, myth is made up of the relations between this units. And, like Jakobson notes, these relations are both diachronic and synchronic.

Lévi-Strauss believed that while poetry could not be accurately translated, myth was that which survives the worst translation. The substance of myth is the relations between mythemes.

Lévi-Strauss is one of the first theorists here that I’m not quite convinced by. His theories are the least compelling to me, as his structuralist approach seems at times somewhat arbitrary and yet also too specific.

anonymous asked:

who are some of your most well known historical figures?

Lydia Koidula, our most beloved poetess and founder of Estonian theatre;

Kristjan Jaak Peterson, herald of Estonian national literature 

Johann Voldemar Jannsen, man who coined word “eestlane” (Estonian) and organised first song festival, man who wrote words of our anthem, crucial figure in National Awakening;

Carl Robert Jakobson, man who wrote “3 Patriotic Speeches”, first person to demand Estonians have same rights as Baltic Germans;

Friedrich Robert Faehlmann, the man who came up with “Kalevipoeg” and wrote a lot of our myths;

Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, writer of our national epic, “Kalevipoeg”;

Johann Laidoner, Commander-in-Chief of Estonian army during Independence War;

Konstantin Päts, man who played important role in gaining Independence, our first president; (controversial figure)

and then there’s people who are historical figures but are still alive, because we’re so cool and have people like that too :)

anonymous asked:

pauline do you have any courses/essays/articles/anything to recommend for helping someone to learn about rhythm and rhyme in poetry????? im in highschool and ive searched youtube for some 'how to read a poem' videos but theyre very basic :( the MOOCS you suggested in your ask last time were rly helpful though

Hi ! To go further, I would suggest you take a look at the books listed under literary interpretation in this post, but be aware that it’s next level and I think going a bit far for high-school. There’s a few tips in Adrian Pilkington’s Poetic Effects and Roman Jakobson’s Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics, and ix Lectures of Sound and Meaning. I think you’d find more at your level in high-school textbooks (google’s your friend there!), which I know nothing about anymore because I’m an old lady. But good luck! I hope this helps all the same.

List of shibboleth names

by which the privileged judge their inferiors


Abbe Suger (French pronunciation: syoo-zheh, British: soo-gehr)

Chinua Achebe (chin-oo-ah ah-chay-bae)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (chim-ah-man-da nnnn-go-zeh ah-dee-che)

James Agee (a-jee)

Anna Akhmatova (onna ock-mah-taugh-vah)

Louis Althusser (lou-wee al-too-sair)

Jerzy Andrzejewski (yer-zhay ahn-zhay-ev-ski)

Roger Angell (angel)

Jean Anouilh (~ahn’oo-ee)

Diane Arbus (dee-ann)

Hannah Arendt (hahn-ah ahr-ent)

Martha Argerich (mar-tah herr-each)

Eugène Atget (oo-zhenne at-zhey)

Augustine of Hippo (aw-gus-tin)

Autechre (aw-tekk-er)

Richard Ayoade (eye-oh-wah-dee)


Angelo Badalamenti (bottle-ah-menti)

Walter Bagehot (badget)

Balliol College (bay-lee-uhl)

Donald/Frederick Barthelme (barth-uhl-me)

Karl Barth (bart)

Roland Barthes (bart)

Tom Beauchamp (beachum)

Walter Benjamin (ben-yameen)

John Berger (berdger)

Bishop Berkeley (barkley)

Hans Bethe (beta)

John Betjeman (betch-uh-mun)

Joseph Beuys (boyz)

Hieronymus Bosch (Flemish pronunciation: heer-rone-nee-mohse boss)

Tadeusz Borowski (tah-de-yoosh borr-off-ski)

Anthony Boucher (rhymes with voucher)

Tycho Brahe (Danish pronunciation: too-ghoh brahhh)

Broad Art Museum (brode)

Hermann Broch (~hair-monn brohhh)

Burgundy Street, New Orleans (burr-gun-dee)

Steve Buscemi (boo-semm-ee)

Bowdoin College (boh-din)


Gonville and Caius College (keys)

Menzies Campbell (ming-iss)

Thomas Carew (carey)

Vija Celmins (vee-yah tell-midge)

Michael Chabon (shay-bonn)

Jan Czochralski (yann choh-h’ral-ski)

J.C. Chandor (shann-door)

Dan Chaon (shawn)

Chyron (kai-rawn or kai-run)

Cimabue (chee-ma-boo-ee)

Karel Čapek (kah-rell chap-eck)

Michael Cimino (chee-me-noh)

Emil Cioran (chore-ahn)

Ta-Nehisi Coates (tah-nuh-hah-see)

Alexander/Andrew/Patrick Cockburn (coburn)

Paulo Coelho (~pow-lu kuh-whey.l-you.)1

J.M. Coetzee (koot-see)

Robert Campin (com-pin)

William Cowper (cooper)

Cré na Cille, Máirtín Ó Cadhain book (~kreh neh kill-eh)

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (me-high cheek-sent-me-high)

Countee Cullen (cown-tay)

Marie Skłodowska-Curie (skwoh-doaf-ska)

Alfonso/Jonás/Carlo Cuarón (al-fone-so/ho-nas kwah-roan)


Gerard David (Flemish pronunciation: ~hhheer-ahrd dahh-fidd)

The Dalles, Oregon (the dolls)

Guy Debord (ghee du-borrh)

Louis De Broglie (duh broy)

Giorgio De Chirico (Italian pronunciation: ~dee kee-ree-koh)

Richard Dedekind (between day-dah-kin and day-dah-kint)

Wilhelm Dilthey (dill-tai)

Alfred Döblin (deu-bleen)

Don Juan, Byron character (jew-un)

Gerrit/Gerard Dou (dow)

W.E.B. DuBois (duh-boyz)

Andre Dubus (duh-byoose)


Chiwetel Ejiofor (choo-we-tell edge-ee-oh-for)

Cary Elwes (ell-wiss)

Paul Erdős (~pal ehr-deush)

John Scotus Eriugena (era-jee-nah)

Leonhard Euler (oiler)


Nuruddin Farah (Somali pronunciation: ~nour-oo-deen farr-ah)

Colm Feore (column fury)

Ferdydurke (fair-deh-dure-kuh)

Paul Feyerabend (fire-ah-bent)

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (feesh-tuh)3

Ralph/Ranulph/Sophie/Joseph/Magnus/Martha Fiennes (rayf finezzzzzzzzzzzzz)

Gustave Flaubert (flow-bear)

William Foege (fay-ghee)

Lee Fang (fong)

Michel Foucault (~foo-coh)

Gottlob Frege (got-lobe free-geh)

James Frey (fry)


Gallaudet University (gal-uh-debt)

Clifford Geertz (gurtz)

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss pronunciation: yah-coh-mett-ee)2

André Gide (zheed)

Giotto (jhott-oh)

H.R. Giger (ghee-guh)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (~ger-tuh)

Nikolai Gogol (goggle)

Witold Gombrowicz (vee-told gomm-broh-vitch)

Jan Gossaert (~yann ho-sight) aka ‘Mabuse’ (mah-buu-zuh)

Philip Gourevitch (guh-ray-vitch)

Antonio Gramsci (gromm-she)

Matt Groening (graining)

Alexander Grothendieck (groat-enn-deek)

David Guetta (gay-tah)


Vaclav Havel (vott-slav hah-vell)

Michael Haneke (hanukkah)

Margaret H’Doubler (dough-blur)

Seamus Heaney (shay-muss hee-knee)

Aleksandar Hemon (between heh-monn and heh-mown)

Zbigniew Herbert (z’beeg-nyeff herr-behrt)

John Hersey (hearse-ey)

Hesiod (he-see-uhd)

Hermann Hesse (~hair-monn heh-seh)

Guy Hocquenghem (ghee ock-en-g’yem)

homo sacer, Agamben concept (Italian pronunciation: oh-moh satch-air)

Houston Street, Manhattan (house-ton)

Joris-Karl Huysmans (zhour-ris karl weese-moss)4

Bohumil Hrabal (boh-who-meal h’rah-ball)

Alfred Hrdlička (German pronunciation: ~hairt-litch-kah)


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (angh)

Eugène Ionesco (Romanian pronunciation: ~yoh-ness-koh)

Luce Irigaray (loose ear-ee-garr-eh)


Roman Jakobson (jacob-son)

Jacques, Shakespeare character (jay-kwiss)

Erica Jong (zhong)

Seu Jorge (~sewe zhawzhe)1

Carl Jung (yoong)


Frigyes Karinthy (free-gesh car-inn-tee)

Keble College (keeble)

Kelis Rogers (kuh-leece)

Imre Kertész (imm-reh kare-tace)

John Maynard Keynes (kanes)

Omar Khayyam (high-yahm)

Krzysztof Kieślowski (krish-toff keesh-loff-skee)

Q'orianka/Xihuaru Kilcher (core-i-an-ka/see-wahr-oo)

Danilo Kiš (dann-eel-oh keesh)

Paul Klee (powell clay)

Stephen Cole Kleene (cleany)

Phil Klay (kligh)

Karl Ove Knausgård (Norwegian pronunciation: ~kahl oo-veh kuh-nauss-gahd)

Zoltán Kodály (zohwl-tahn koh-die)

Sarah Koenig (kay-nig)

Alexandre Kojève (koh-zhevv)

Tadeusz Konwicki (tah-de-yoosh konn-vitz-ski)

Jerzy Kosiński (yer-zhay koh-shin-ski)

Alexandre Koyré (kwah-ray)

Saul Kripke (crip-key)

Thomas Kuhn (coon)

Milan Kundera (Czech pronunciation: mill-ahn koon-der-uh)


Henri Lefebvre (luh-fevv-ruh)

Stanisław Lem (stan-ni-swaf lemm)

Jonathan Lethem (leeth-um)

Jared Leto (let -oh)

Primo Levi (leh-vee)

Marina Lewycka (leh-vitz-kah)

Mario Vargas Llosa (yoh-sah)

Peter Lorre (laura)

Jan Łukasiewicz (yann wu-kah-shey-vitch)


Magdalen College, Oxford/Cambridge (mawd-lin)

Mannes College of Music (mannis)

Quentin Matsys/Quinten Matsijs (Flemish pronunciation: kvinn-tin mott-sayse)

Somerset Maugham (mawm)

Kazimir Malevich (may-lay-vich)

Thomas Mann (toe-mahs mahn)

Don Marquis (mar-kwiss)

Olivier Messiaen (oh-leev-yay meh-syonh)

Joel Meyerowitz (my-yer-uh-wits)

Czesław Miłosz (chess-waff me-woahsh)

Joan Miró (zhwamn me-roh)

László Moholy-Nagy (~lass-low moh-holy noidge-eh)

Robert Moog (mogue)

George Mosse (mossy)

Sławomir Mrożek (swah-voh-meer m’roh-zhek)

Ron Mueck (myoo-ick)

Harry Mulisch (mool-ish)

Edvard Munch (ed-vart moonk)

Robert Musil (moo-zeal/moo-seal)

Eadweard Muybridge (edward my-bridge)


Nacogdoches, Texas (nack-uh-dough-chis)

Natchitoches, Louisiana (nack-uh-tush)

Otto Neurath (noi-raht)

Bill Nighy (nye)

Anaïs Nin (ah-nayh-ees ninn)

Emmy Noether (neur-tuh)

Cees Nooteboom (sayze note-uh-bome)

Lupita Nyong'o (~nnnnn yong-oh)


Obergefell v. Hodges (oh-burr-geh-fell)

Máirtín Ó Cadhain (marr-teen oh kai-un)

Adepero Oduye (add-uh-pair-oh oh-doo-yay)

Jenny Offill (oh-full)

Claes Oldenburg (kloss)

Michael Ondaatje (awn-datch-ee)

The River Ouse (ooze)

David Oyelowo (oh-yell-uh-whoah)


Chuck Palahniuk (paul-uh-nik)

Wolfgang Pauli (pow-lee)

Charles Sanders Peirce (purse)

Samuel Pepys (peeps)

Jodi Picoult (pee-coe)

Max Planck (plonk)

Plotinus (ploh-tine-us)

Anthony Powell (po-uhl)

John Cowper Powys (cooper poh-iss)

Principia Mathematica (prin-kipp-ee-yah)

Annie Proulx (proo)

Marcel Proust (proost)

Joseph Pulitzer (puh-litz-ur)


Qatar (cutter/gutter)5

Quinnipiac University (kwinn-uh-pea-ack)


Ayn Rand (well-fare recipient)

Sławomir Rawicz (swah-voh-meer rahh-vitch)

Satyajit Ray (Bengali pronunciation: ~shut-uh-jeet rye)

Steve Reich (raish)

Tom Regan (ray-gun)

ricercar (Italian pronunciation: ~reach-ur-car)

Rainer Maria Rilke (rhine-er mahr-ee-a reel-kuh)

Nicolas Roeg (rogue)

Theodore Roethke (ret-key)

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen/Roentgen (vill-helm rhont-gn)

Klaus Roth (roath)

Mary Ruefle (roo-full)

Ed Ruscha (roo-shay)


Edward Said (sigh-eed)

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (sanh-eks-oo-pear-ee)

Luc Sante (sahnt)

Leonardo Sciascia (shah-shah)

Schlumberger (slumber-zhay)

Bruno Schulz (schooltz)

Martin Scorsese (score-sess-ee)

Henry Scrope, Shakespeare character (scroop)

W.G. Sebald (zay-bald)

Chloë Sevigny (sevv-un-ee)

Choire Sicha (corey seeka)

Charles Simić (Serbian pronunciation: simm-itch, but often called simmick)

Victor Sjöström (Swedish pronunciation: veek-torr hhhwhere-strome)

Theda Skocpol (scotch-pole)

Josef Škvorecký (yoh-zeff shkvore-etz-ski)

William Smellie (smiley)

Todd Solondz (suh-lawnz)

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (saul-zhuh-neat-sin)

Léon Spilliaert (Dutch pronunciation: lay-on spilly-art)

Strange, barony (strang)

Edward Steichen (shtike-inn)

William Stukeley (stoo-key)

Wisława Szymborska (vee-swa-va shim-bor-ska)


Gay Talese (tuh-leeze)

Chief Justice Roger Taney (tawny)

Nahum Tate (neigh-m)

Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans (chop-uh-too-luss)

Wayne Thiebaud (tee-bo)

Uwe Timm (ooh-veh)

Tzvetan Todorov (tsveh-tahn toh-duh-roff)

Colm Tóibín (~column toh-been)

Ernst Troeltsch (trolch)

Edward Tufte (tuff-tee)

Tulane University (too-lane)

Ivan Turgenev (yvonne turr-gain-yevv)

George W. S. Trow (like ’grow’)


Michel Houllebecq (he doesn’t care)

Joos van Cleve (yohss fon clay-vuh)

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (meez fonn der roh-uh)

Rogier van der Weyden (~ro-kheer fon dur vay-dun)

Arnoldus Vanderhorst, ultimate namesake of Luther (vandross)

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch pronunciation: ~finch-ant fan hawh)

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (ahn-toe-nee fon lay-when-hook)

Rembrandt van Rijn (remm-brondt fon rain)

Ludvík Vaculík (lood-veek vatz-oo-leek)

Johannes Vermeer (yo-hann-iss furr-meer)

Jones Very (jonas veery)

Vladimir Voinovich (vlah-dee-meer voy-noh-vitch)

Ludwig von Mises (fonn meez-ess)

Georg Henrik von Wright (fon vrikt)


Ayelet Waldman (eye-yell-it)

Quvenzhané Wallis (kwuh-ven-zhuh-nay)

Robert Walser (valzer)

Jean-Antoine Watteau (French pronunciation: ~vah-teau)

Evelyn St. John Waugh (eve-linn sin-jun wahh)

Max Weber (veigh-burr)

Simone Weil (zee-moan veigh)

Elie Wiesel (eel-ee vee-zell)

Garry Winogrand (win-uh-grand)

Ludwig Wittgenstein (vitt-genn-shtein)

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (wood-house)

David Wojnarowicz (voy-nah-roh-vitch)

Hermann Wouk (woke)

Woyzeck, Büchner play (voight-zikk)

Joseph Wright of Derby (right of dahr-bee)


William Butler Yeats (yates)

Yerkes Observatory (yer-keys)

Yoknapatawpha County, Faulkner setting (yolk-nuh-pah-taw-fa)


Robert Zajonc (zai-unts)

Slavoj Žižek (slah-voi zhee-zhek)

Andrzej Żuławski (ahn-drey zhu-wavv-ski)

1 Portuguese has a much more complicated phonetics than English & so these are especially approximate.

2 Because Giacometti was from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland a kind of second order snobbishness has descended on the pronunciation of his name. Most people who would judge you pronounce it as you would in Italian (jah-coh-mett-ee) but an inner-inner circle insist on correcting even these people with the Swiss-Italian pronunciation listed here.

3 The pronunciation of the -ch as soft instead of hard, unlike every other instance in German, was contrived after the philosopher’s death to avoid a near-homophony with that language’s word for ‘fuck.’

4 The last syllable doesn’t have an English equivalent but rhymes with the French pronunciation of Jean’s.

5 The first letter (qaf/qof/ق) has no equivalent in English or any other Western language and is more glottal than either of the sounds starting these approximations.

More? Better phonetic versions?


Happy Birthday to Alla Osipenko, who celebrated her jubilee yesterday (June 16).

Alla Osipenko studied at the Leningrad Choreographic School (now Vaganova Academy) in the class of Agrippina Vaganova.

Upon graduation she joined the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky Ballet) in 1950, and was promoted to prima ballerina in 1954. Her repertoire included: Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Waltz and Mazurka in Chopiniana, Masha in The Nutcracker, Frigia in Spartak, the Mistress of the Copper Mountain in The Stone Flower (1957), and Mekhmene-Banu in Legend of Love (1961). In 1961, while Ms. Osipenko was on tour with the Kirov Ballet in Paris, one of her main dance partners, Rudolf Nureyev defected to the west on her 29th birthday. Ms. Osipenko, who was not a Communist Party member, was under considerable suspicion by the KGB upon her return to the USSR who believed she might have known about the defection ahead of time (she didn’t). She had a rocky relationship with the Kirov for much of the 1960s and Osipenko left the Kirov in 1971.

From 1971 to 1973 she was a soloist of the troupe “Choreographic Miniatures” under direction of Leonid Jakobson. She also danced leading parts of classic and modern repertoire in stagings of well-known soviet ballet-masters. Osipenko then danced the work Leningrad choreographer, Boris Eifman, becoming the first star dancer to champion his work. Ms. Osipenko was married to fellow Kirov soloist John Markovsky who had also left the Kirov to work with Jakobson.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ms. Osipenko moved to the US in the 1990s and worked with the Hartford Ballet Company in Connecticut. She eventually returned to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2000. She also has a longtime artistic relationship with the famed Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov and has appeared in a number of his films including the award-winning international success, Russian Ark. Ms. Osipenko is currently working as a ballet coach with the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg.

hello pals ! i’m ella, twenty-two, and spent the last hour thinking i had somehwat decent ideas to create characters/connections off of but once i got them down on a tumblr text post, i’m now nothing but embarrassed ! since i’m also a lazy pos, i’ll just include what i have below this readmore right here for both my characters nikolai & reagan. if you’d like to plot pls hmu or give this a like. i made up a shit connections page HERE for the both of them as well (also pls forgive me for any spelling/grammar mistakes cause i did not double check rip).

Keep reading

The idea of the liberation of energy, the problem of the time dimension, and the idea that movement at the speed of light may actually be a reverse movement in time–all these things fascinated Mayakovsky. I’d seldom seen him so interested and attentive. “Don’t you think,” he suddenly asked, “that we’ll at last achieve immortality?” I was astonished, and I mumbled a skeptical comment. He thrust his jaw forward with that hypnotic insistence so familiar to anyone who knew Mayakovsky well: “I’m absolutely convinced,” he said, “that one day there will be no more death. And the dead will be resurrected.”
—  Roman Jakobson, “On a Generation That Squandered its Poets” (trans. Edward J. Brown)

anonymous asked:

I don't mean to bother you but I've been wondering if Ithunn's apples keep the gods young why is Odin always depicted as an elderly man? I always imagine them as always looking like they're in their late 20's-early 30's Sorry, I just keep thinking about this

It’s a valid question! Not only is he depicted in art as old he’s also called an old man in the lore itself. For instance in Völuspá the volva calls him aldni kom (old one) in stanza 28.  And yet, old age is something seen as detrimental in Old Norse society. In Hrafnkels Saga, for instance, it is said that “everyone becomes argr (commits ergi) who gets older.” Men who commit ergi become less honorable and less masculine. In Norse society, old age was associated with physical decline and loss of bodily strength. So it’s very worth asking why the supposed patriarch and greatest among the Aesir, the War-Father and Terrible-One, would be constantly represented as an elderly man, a figure that is explicitly physically unimposing in the Norse worldview.

The most obvious reason is that while old age was associated with the flesh weakening, there was an inverse growth relationship of wisdom vs physical strength. Childhood was associated with the absence of andgit or understanding/intellect whereas old age was the absence of one’s physical strength. The theme of wisdom and knowledge as being highly important in Norse culture is illustrated by almost all of Odin’s major tales. In Vafthrudnismal he seeks out knowledge from the giant at the potential cost to his life. He sacrifices his eye to drink from Mimir’s Well and hangs for nine nights on Yggdrasil to gain the knowledge of the runes. In Voluspa and Baldr’s Draumr Odin seeks counsel from the land of the dead. He learned seidr almost certainly for this ability to access the land of the dead and plumb its depths of knowledge for himself without killing himself again like with the quest for runic knowledge. Huginn and Muninn fly the world everyday, bringing back knowledge for Odin at the end of the day. Frequently the gods must rely upon their own cunning rather than weapons or strength of any sort in order to overcome dire situations. The mead of poetry, a magic and therefore type of knowledge in and of itself, is considered one of the most valuable items in the world. All of these factors emphasize Odin’s association with knowledge as his most important aspect, not his war-aspect. Therefore it makes sense to constantly portray him as older because great age equates to great wisdom.

The second main reason is that he is seen as the patriarch of the Aesir. At least, he is in the Icelandic lore that makes up the majority of what has survived. In many other traditions he isn’t but it’s undeniable that probably well over 50% of heathens today derive their practice from Icelandic tradition thanks to the Eddas being the main source of knowledge on Norse mythology. So most of what survives and continues to grow today frames Odin as the patriarch of the gods. The father’s role in Norse society was varied. To his sons, the father’s duty was to be his first teacher and to continue to be his teacher, passing down knowledge and lessons as the boy becomes ready for them. Generally this was done with stories, which means it is probably worth noting that many poems were to tell stories so this is very much within Odin’s domain as a god. Fathers would also advise their sons to listen to other older figures not because they were high of rank but because they were wise and could pass down even more knowledge, further preparing the boy for life. How most would probably assume that once the son comes of age he is no longer obliged to bow to his father’s words, but Armann Jakobsson has illustrated that this isn’t true. There are at least five historically attested chieftains who lived past their sixties and maintained highly respected figures until their deaths. Njal’s Saga provides a literary example of an old benevolent patriarch that up until his death is still seen by his family as the authority and his blessings were needed when it came to decision making. As such, despite the fact that age is associated with becoming “less manly” it doesn’t always strip a patriarchal figure of their authority. And if Odin is supposed to the the Allfather, well, there’s no way age would take his authority from him and in fact having him be old and still the one in charge ony further exemplifies his strengths.

On the topic of a patriarch passing down wisdom to their family, well, part of gaining wisdom is also through applying knowledge. The Wanderer’s travels are all part of gaining more knowledge. Look no further than the advice given in Havamal stanza 18: “Only that man who travels widely and has journeyed a great deal knows what sort of mind each man has in his control; he who’s sharp in his wits”. Heck, the entire poem is about disclosing knowledge learned through life to whomever is listening. This poem is possibly the most exemplary of Odin as a patriarch in the lore for this reason. And with that in mind, the older he is the more time he’s had to travel and gain experience to pass down.

In the end,  Odin is a god of crossing boundaries. He leaves no line uncrossed. If he can be a man who practices seidr, a man who turns into a woman and into an animal, if he can be an othbreaker and remain unpunished and honorable, if he can be patriarch of the Aesir but bloodbrother to a jotun, then what is to stop him from being young but also old, frail and wise but also the Warfather? As Jakobson says, gods set the rules for mortals but violating these rules and “getting away with it is what being a god is all about”. 

Sources referenced:

Odinn as Mother: The Old Norse Deviant Patriarch by Armann Jakobsson

Age Matters in Old English Literature by Jordi Sánchez-Martí

Iron Age Myth and Materiality by Lotte Hedeager

The Patriarch: Myth and Reality by Armann Jakobsson

Slavic earth goddess, Mokosh, at Harvest.

by John McCannon
Goddess of the earth worshipped by the ancient Slavs; one of the most primeval deities in the pagan Slavic pantheon. Mokos is most likely a later and more strongly personified variant of the Slavs’ elder earth goddess, “Damp Mother Earth,” or Mati syra zemlya. According to Roman Jakobson and Marija Gimbutas, the worship of such a primal earth goddess was widespread among the Slavs and their neighbors; this is attested to by the fact that the earth deities of a number of Baltic, Phrygian, and Finno-Ugric peoples exhibit similar characteristics and seem to derive from the Indo-Iranian Ardvi Sura Anahita (“Humid Mother of the Earth”). Just prior to the conversion of the Eastern Slavs to Christianity, Mokos was worshipped officially in Kievan Rus, along with Perun and other deities mentioned in the Primary Chronicle.
As the only female god of note to be worshipped by the Slavs, Mokos assumed a broad range of divine roles. She was first and foremost a symbol of the earth’s fertility. During the early spring, it was taboo to spit on or strike the ground, since Mokos was said to be pregnant then. Holidays were dedicated to her in the autumn, after the harvest. The belief that Mokos invested the earth with divinity was reflected in peasant practices that, in some parts of Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia, persisted into the 19th century: the swallowing of a lump of soil to consecrate wedding vows, the placing of earth upon one’s head to seal oaths, the confession of one’s sins to a hole in the ground instead of a priest.
Over time, Mokos became a patron of women, especially those bearing children or giving birth. She oversaw women’s work, such as spinning and weaving. By some groups, such as the Czechs, her name was invoked in times of drought. She was also thought to protect flocks of sheep. The strength of her cult remained substantial, even after the Christianization of the Slavs; as late as the 17th century, Orthodox priests attempted to uncover Mokos-worshippers among the peasantry, asking women whether or not they had “gone to Mokos.” In Russia, Mokos was partially absorbed into Orthodox worship, in the guise of St. Paraskeva-Piatnitsa (“Paraskeva-Friday”), whose name day fell in late October, around the time of Mokos’s former harvest celebration.

So @sapph1re-prince requested that I expand upon my statement that the jotnar are strongly affiliated with Finland and the Saami people. Many scholars believe that the ‘conceptual birth’ so to speak of the jotnar and their place in Norse mythology come from encounters between the Old Norse and Saami cultures. There are numerous examples in the lore that are seen as supporting this theory included but not limited to the way trolls and jotnar are described appearance-wise, the locations where they live, and their civilizations and culture(notably magic in this case).

(Before I begin I wanted to remind people that the words ‘jotun’ and ‘troll’ are used interchangeably in the eddas and sagas and therefore things pertaining to trolls also pertain to jotnar. In addition, there’s a strongly accepted belief that the Aesir are to humans like the jotnar are to trolls. I can argue this more thoroughly elsewhere. But this is why many of the quotes I will use will say troll rather than giant or jotun. Now with that stated, let’s begin.)

The simplest place to start is with location (pun not intended). Snorri states that the jotnar live to the North and to the East. Jotunheim and Helheim, both residencies of jotnar and trolls, are associated with the direction of north. The forest of Jarnvidr is located to the East. Geographically, traveling in these directions would lead one to Finland. However, Armann Jakobson also notes that the jotnar aren’t limited to these locations even if they are their main abodes. Jotnar and trolls can be found in any encounter with the wilderness. Wilderness in this case means away from/outside of society. Historically, at least in Norway, the Saami could be found all over even though they were concentrated in the north-east in “Finnmark” as the Saami were nomadic traders. In any case, they weren’t generally a part of “society” itself despite the existence of laws regarding them and their treatment, but rather of the landscape and mostly found in the same directions as the jotnar are.

Appearance wise, trolls and jotnar are often described as having ugly or monstrous features. A common description of troll women in particular is that they have “broad faces” which is a common stereotypical description of Saami women in old and more recent literature of Scandinavia. In addition, their clothes and mannerisms are also said to be foreign:

The trollwomen who haunt a certain subtype of the fornaldarsögur(legendary  sagas)  are  almost  always hostile towards the human men they encounter, usually in remote places far away from human settlements. There are often ownership disputes over fishing-grounds, boats and fishermen’s  huts.  Verbal  violence, often in verse, usually escalates into physical violence. Since trolls are often said to live in the north and to have alien facial features, clothing, and manners, it is no great leap to conclude that many troll-encounter stories have had their roots in real-world meetings and misunderstandings between Norse-speakers and Sámi-speakers.

Noting that the Saami made much of their living by fishing, the frequent interactions between humans trolls around fishing locations would make a lot of sense if they were indeed based on encounters with the Saami people. 

Magic is another tie between jotnar and the Saami. As I mentioned in this post  while they (the Saami) didn’t practice seidr, it was a popular belief that they did and had other ‘exotic’ magics. In Norway, “people who seek prophecies are said to gera Finfarar ‘make a journey to the Saami’, fara at spyria spa ‘go and ask for prophecies’, fara a Finmarkr at spyria spadom ‘go to Finnmark to ask for prophecies’, or trua a Finna ‘to believe in the Saami’.” (McKinnell) In addition to the links to Saami practicing seidr-like magic, Odin obtained the knowledge of the runes from hanging on the branches of Yggdrasil, going into another realm, a realm of supernatural beings, namely trolls and jotnar as they inhabit the world of Niflheim. In addition, some of Finnish magical practices closely mirrored those of the Norse. It’s possible that they learned them from the Norse, but if the myth of seidr being taught by Gullveig is true and Odin going to a supernatural realm to obtain the knowledge of the runes is to be believed, then it makes sense that the Norse absorbed Finnish practices. Notably, Odin learned the magic of the runes from his trip to the land of the dead and one of the well-known magics of the Finnish peoples is called “rune singing” which in function is basically galdr: spells performed by recitation. In addition, there is the concept of a “luonto” which very strongly parallels the Norse belief of the fylgja. Both are aspects of the soul that are also separate from it, both are animal form, and both are tied to the nature of one’s being defining their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore if we assume the myths to have some historical basis for their conception, the source of these magical practices being the Finnish peoples makes a lot of sense.

(Note: I’m admitting here the above waffling on switching to using Finnish peoples/Finns in place of Saami is because of a current lack of specific knowledge in the area of Saami belief and religion. So for safety’s sake I’m using a more general term for this post so that even if I’m not specific, I’m also not misportraying the Saami beliefs with my current lack of knowledge.)

In addition to these similarities between jotnar and the Saami, the Norse peoples had a habit of attributing supernatural abilities to ethnic foreigners. See this excerpt from Lindow:

I cite these verses not only because of their chronological primacy and in support of my conviction of the continuity of Scandinavian folk belief, but also to demonstrate that from the very first, notions of ethnicity and social boundaries have been associated with the supernatural. Both Sveigõir and Vanlandi got into trouble away from home, where, as we might suspect, the “other” forces were at large. Sveigõir had been to Turkey and Scythia before encountering the dwarf in the uncharted tracks of eastern Sweden, and Vanlandi fell fatally in love in “Finland,” which in its strict geographical sense here presumably means the land of the Saamis and is in any case located conceptually north of Uppsala. The farm at Steint presumably had human inhabitants, but being far from Uppsala, it also had supernatural ones, and they controlled the feature of the landscape - itself obviously with a strong supernatural component - for which the farm was known. The “Finland” of this early narrative goes a step further, for there the beings themselves are endowed with dangerous supernatural powers of magic. The nightmare who attacked Vanlandi may have been the sorceress employed by the “Finns,” or it may have been called up by the sorceress, but in either case the “Finns” are the outsiders and the dangerous ones. In fact, the “Finns,” imbued with magical powers, are stock figures of Old Norse-Icelandic literature. 

In the same paper, Lindow also notes how ethnic foreigners with dark skin were called “blámenn”. “Svart” is the word used for dark skinned Norse peopls. The Black Sea is called Svartahaf, not Blatthaf. The use of “bla-” as an adjective is clearly used to denote otherness from the known and familiar. Blámenn are often described as having monstrous traits, like in this description: “blacker than pitch, hard tempered and beaked, long-bearded and the beard black and hideous, the hair black and so long that it reached his toes, the eyes as if fire were to be seen in them, and there flew sparks out of them like bubbling iron. From his mouth and nostrils flames came like sulphur, and he had wings and feathers like bramble and thorns”. They’re also frequently linked to berserkers, which possess supernatural strength and the ability to transform in some tales.

So as you can see it’s well known that the Norse were incredibly xenophobic and they would project their fears of ethnic others by transforming them into monsters. Furthermore, they also projected themselves into the Aesir insofar as the Aesir are tied to humanity’s needs, struggles, and attributes. As Schjødt explains:

This indicates (and further examples could be mentioned) that the Aesir in some way can be seen as the representatives of the humans of the culture which created the mythology that we usually call the Old Norse or pre-Christian Scandinavian. The relation between the Aesir and the other groups of beings within the mythology should thus be seen as a reflection of the relation between the ‘in-group’ and various ‘out-groups’. It has thus been argued that, in some way, the Sami to the north of the Germanic speaking Scandinavians were mythologically reflected in the giants or, as they are often called in the mythological texts, the jotnar.

In addition, the treatment of the jotnar by the Aesir is quite similar to the way indigenous peoples throughout the world were treated by colonialist societies. As Philip J. Deloria notes in Indians in Unexpected Places, “In one set of narratives, Indian women, linked to the land itself, gave themselves metaphorically to colonizing white men, engendering a peaceful narrative of cross-cultural harmony in which whites became indigenous owners of the continent through sexualized love and marriage stories such as that of Pocahontas.” Look at the story of Freyr and Gerdr and you will see a clear echo of this theme. Gro Steinsland argues that there are multiple examples of this hierogamos (divine marriage) between jotnar and gods or men in the hopes of causing the descendants of the gods and men to have authentic and rightful ownership over that giant’s domain. Lotte Motz agrees with this for the most part, though denies that it was a requirement for sacred kingship even if it was one method. She also notes several instances of these marriages in the sagas: “King  Hölgi  of Hålogaland  married  Thora, the daughter of king Gusir of the Bjarms and Finns, who is a giant in some texts. We may point to yet other giant kings and their dominions:  Gusir of Finnmark and  Bjarmaland,  Dofri of Dofrafjall,  Geirroðr  of Jötun- heimr.  King  Snær  had  three  daughters  and  one  son;  the  son  Þorri inherited Gotland,  Kvenland,  and Finnmark.”

In addition to the colonial narrative of integrating the land and “natives” into society, there is a strong narrative in Norse mythology that the jotnar are doomed to disappear, that they are outdated and not meant to prosper. When Ragnarok comes, the jotnar will not be reborn in the new world. This theme of “primitive savages” naturally disappearing and being left behind is a prominent narrative in America regarding Native Americans. We have a tendency to view them as a thing of the past. Hell, my niece was taught at school that they no longer exist; they’re just gone. It is mythic canon that the jotnar are primordials linked to the land, the things that came before. And the Saami are the indigenous people in Scandinavia. The Germanic tribes moved into Scandinavia, meaning the Saami were there beforehand. Just like the jotnar, they were there before the gods came about. And it is mythic canon that poems like Vafþruðnismal symbolize the belief that the jotnar were ultimately to lose out to the superiority of the Aesir.

So, yeah. Whether you agree or not, there’s substantial evidence for it. There’s also a strong tie I believe between Jotnar and Bears which are important animals to the Saami; the Norse treat bears and jotnar with similar attitudes. But I need to do a bit more reading on that so that’s another post.


Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend by John McKinnell

Where Do the Giants Live? by Armann Jakobsson

Indians in Unexpected Places by Philip J Deloria

The Perception of the Saamis and Their Religion in Old Norse Sources by Else Mundal

Wilderness, Liminality, and the Other in Old Norse Myth and Cosmology Jens Peter Schjødt

Kingship and the Giants by Lotte Motz

Giants in Folklore and Mythology by Lotte Motz

Supernatural Others and Ethnic Others: A Millenium of World View by John Lindow

Nasty, Brutish, and Large Cultural Difference and Otherness in ‘the Figuration of the Trollwomen of the Fornaldarsogur by Sandra Ballif Straubhaar

Trollwomen by Sandra Ballif Straubhaar

Decir, hacer

                                          A Roman Jakobson

Entre lo que veo y digo,
Entre lo que digo y callo,
Entre lo que callo y sueño,
Entre lo que sueño y olvido
La poesía.
Se desliza entre el sí y el no:
lo que callo,
lo que digo,
lo que olvido.
No es un decir:
es un hacer.
Es un hacer
que es un decir.
La poesía
se dice y se oye:
es real.
Y apenas digo
es real,
se disipa.
¿Así es más real?
Idea palpable,
la poesía
va y viene
entre lo que es
y lo que no es.
Teje reflejos
y los desteje.
La poesía
siembra ojos en las páginas
siembra palabras en los ojos.
Los ojos hablan
las palabras miran,
las miradas piensan.
los pensamientos,
lo que decimos
el cuerpo
de la idea.
Los ojos
se cierran
Las palabras se abren.

Por Octavio Paz.

Certainly, then, words like mama and dada wouldn’t necessarily stay the same, or even close to the same, in languages around the world and over tens of thousands of years. So what happened?

The answer lies with babies and how they start to talk. The pioneering linguist Roman Jakobson figured it out. If you’re a baby making a random sound, the easiest vowel is ah because you can make it without doing anything with your tongue or lips. Then, if you are going to vary things at all, the first impulse is to break up the stream of ahhh by closing your lips for a spell, especially since you’ve been doing that to nurse. Hence, mmmm, such that you get a string of mahs as you keep the sound going while breaking it up at intervals. […] Nichols has proposed that the reason a language like Yukaghir’s pronouns for I and you look so much like the mama/tata alternation—as well as why French has moi and toi and English once had me and thou—is because even as these languages have changed over time, the sounds of the words for I and you have been influenced by the way mama and tata differ. The m sound is used for what is closest—mama for Mommy and “me” for the self. The t sound—often learned just after m—is for what’s just one step removed from the closest: Daddy hovering just over there, which we can understand would feel like “you” rather than “(Mommy and) me.

#Mayakovsky... 'on a generation that squandered its poets)...

i feel/like a soviet factory
manufacturing happiness.
i don’t want/to be plucked
like a flower/after a the days work
i want the heart to be paid
its wage of love/at the specialists rate
i want the factory/committee
to put a lock on my lips
when the work is done
i want the pent to be equal to the bayonet
and i want stalin/to report in the name of the politburo
about the production of verse
as he does about pig iron and steeeeel
thus, and so it is/we’ve reached
the topmost level/up from the workers hovels
in the union of republics
the appreciation of verse/has exceeded the prewar level

Mayakovski – quoted in Jakobson (On a generation that squandered its poets…) in the fabulous Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time…

Though really if Jakobson and I were sitting drinking espresso in some small place in paris we’d be lamenting of the way the spectacle has generated a generation that squandered its intellectuals…

The poem is decapitalised…