Harriet J. Evans Tang, Postdoctoral Research Associate at Durham University (UK), discussed her book Animal-Human Relationships in Medieval Iceland: From Farm-Settlement to Sagas (D.S. Brewer, 2022) in the Greenhouse environmental humanities book talk series on Monday, 25 September 2023, at 16:00 in Norway (3pm in UK).
Domestic animals played a range of roles in the imaginative world of medieval Icelanders: from partners in settlement and household allies, to violent offenders, foster-kin and surrogate wives, they were vital and effective members of the multispecies communities established from the ninth century onwards. This book examines the domestic animals of early Iceland in their physical and textual contexts, through detailed analysis of the spaces and places of the Icelandic farm and farming landscape, and textual sources such as The Book of Settlements, the earliest Icelandic laws, and various episodes from the Sagas and Tales of Icelanders. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to animal-human relationships, it sees animals not solely as symbols, metaphors, or objects, but as subjects in affective relationships with their human co-settlers who become the focus of intense exploration, delight, anxiety and condemnation in later textual narratives. By inviting readers to question how these sources form, embrace, or reject animal-human relationships, it provides a resource for understanding these archaeological sites and textual narratives differently: as products of multispecies communities in which animals and humans lived, worked, and died together.