When the genre of the medieval Icelandic saga emerged out of the confluence of Latin learned prose and vernacular oral traditions during the course of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a novel form of prosimetrum was crafted.
In The Creativity Paradox: Verse Quotation in the Íslendingasögur Judy Quinn explores the creative ways in which narrators of the Sagas of Icelanders exploited traditional oral art forms within the still fledgling literary genre of the prose saga.
The juxtaposition of the convergent flow of prose narration with the divergent mode of poetic recitation by saga figures is to some degree the aesthetic hallmark of the saga form, inventively explored by different authors, scattered across the island and across decades — and indeed centuries — as the corpus of Íslendingasögur was amassed.
Because the complexity of dróttkvætt utterance is often at odds with the linear narrative mode of prose, a variety of paradoxes can arise: of contradiction, of discontinuity and of redundancy and excess. Moreover, once the richly divergent nature of skaldic composition is embedded in prose, the divergent energies of the stanzas alter the rhythm of narration and create discursive entanglements of various kinds. It is out of the resultant trope of paradox that the particular creativity of saga narration in the Íslendingasögur can be located, in the innovative merging of two conventions, the learned mode of prose narration with the traditional, oral mode of poetic composition and performance. As saga authors pioneered a new literary genre, the capabilities of each form — of prose narration and of the quoted skaldic stanza — were explored and literary synergies were created.