Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

John Michael Rankin

Committee Members

Julie Fox-Horton, William Douglas Burgess, Jr.


Using the lives of impaired individuals catalogued in the Íslendingasögur as a narrative framework, this study examines medieval Scandinavian social views regarding impairment from the ninth to the thirteenth century. Beginning with the myths and legends of the eddic poetry and prose of Iceland, it investigates impairment in Norse pre-Christian belief; demonstrating how myth and memory informed medieval conceptualizations of the body. This thesis counters scholarly assumptions that the impaired were universally marginalized across medieval Europe. It argues that bodily difference, in the Norse world, was only viewed as a limitation when it prevented an individual from fulfilling roles that contributed to their community. As Christianity’s influence spread and northern European powers became more focused on state-building aims, Scandinavian societies also slowly began to transform. Less importance was placed on the community in favor of the individual and policies regarding bodily difference likewise changed; becoming less inclusive toward the impaired.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by Michael David Lawson.