The in-class assignment for my contemporary research module was to choose a Wikipedia article and edit it, while live tweeting the process (and then, as you can see, blog about it afterwards). If you want a good chuckle, you can still see the live-tweeting event under the hashtag #EditWikiLit — though I’m sure you all follow me on Twitter already, right?
I had no idea which article to edit at first, but as everyone knows, I am desperately in love with Professor Carolyne Larrington, and I thought; hey! How about I spice up the page on Skírnismál?
It did need a bit of spicing. The original synopsis wasn’t incorrect per say, but it did portray Freyr as some sort of broody teenager instead of a powerful god, and didn’t dwell on the fact that Skírnir maliciously threatens Gerðr until she agrees to a sexual meeting with the Freyr.
I am a Big Fan of Larrington’s feminist reading of the poem (she employs the “reading against the grain” approach). She notes that generally, male readers do not struggle to align themselves with Freyr/Skírnir, and thus male scholarship on the poem has also been sympathetic to the god and his servant. But for women (or, as in my case I suppose, those who have been socialised as female) it’s pretty difficult to ignore the awful way in which Gerðr is treated.
So! When editing the synopsis, I put a little more emphasis on the fact that Gerðr has no choice but to agree to the meeting. The original synopsis also stated that there are other versions of the poem where Skírnir does not use coercion at all, but because I am not sure whether these alleged other versions are in Old Norse or are simply poor translations, I decided to leave it untouched.
The biggest change I made to the article was the addition of a “Curses” section.
Based on Larrington’s essay “What Does Woman Want? Mær und munr in Skírnismál”, I outlined the five main points of the curse that Skírnir threatens Gerðr with. I also mention briefly that real-life examples of similar curses have been found, and are thought to have been employed on actual women in medieval Scandinavia (isn’t that deliciously horrifying?).
The point of this section is to further highlight that Gerðr has her power and agency effectively ripped from her, all because Freyr thinks she’s pretty; but because it’s Wikipedia and not my own personal blog, I just presented the facts as neutrally as I was able. I think.
There was a touch-and-go moment where I hit a button and all of my edits VANISHED. Freyr was not pleased with my work, I suppose. I said a quick prayer to Loki and rewrote everything in double time — when you write for a living, you get used to computers betraying you like this, and start storing all the good parts in your head.
Finally, I made it to the “Sources” section!
I added a few more translations (because the more perspectives/interpretations you have, the better!) and, of course, added Larrington’s essay to the recommended scholarship.
I added Neil Gaiman’s book, Norse Mythology, though his portrayal of the story is a little less “the male gaze is going to gobble you up” and a little more “isn’t this all very romantic”. Still, for anyone interested in the Norse myth cycle, but not in the world of academia, it’s an accessible way to dive in.
I also added UCC’s own Tom Birkett’s recent book, The Norse Myths, as it is not only incredibly detailed and full of beautiful illustration and art, but uses straightforward language anyone can understand.
Thus, the class came to its epic conclusion, and a shiny new Skírnismál article was born. So far, no one has come storming in to undo my work, but you never know. Should it happen, you will be the first to know.
(I also discovered Carolyne Larrington has her own wordpress blog, which I will link here — I absolutely recommend following her!)