Analysis of “Óðinn: A Queer týr?”

Analysis of “Óðinn: A Queer týr? A Study of Óðinn’s Function as a Queer Deity in Iron Age Scandinavia,” a Master’s Thesis by Amy Franks

First Chapter Analysis
Her comparison between mana and hamingja is a pretty big stretch, considering they are vastly different concepts from two very different cultures. The way she tries to tie mana into the spectrum between gods and humans makes no sense, especially when mana has nothing to do with Scandinavian religion. Here, she really should have worked harder to understand the concepts of wyrd and hamingja.

Second Chapter Analysis
She is using queer theory, which is a particular theoretical lens. This, by itself, is not problematic. She is also correct in stating that queer theory is “inherently distrustful of categories.” It is well-known within sociology that gender is a social and historical construct, so this argument on its own is fine. Her citing Ghisleni’s argument to say that studying third genders/sexes someone ignores the nature of personhood is a huge stretch, and it also makes me question how well she vetted her own sources. That argument is logically fallacious from the beginning.

I’ll agree that analyzing Odin through his semantic center is a good methodology, and I can buy that Odin’s semantic center is that of knowledge and its acquisition. Her conclusion is that gender was never a key part of his semantic center, which is an accurate statement. The insertion of her personal belief that he has elements of queerness does not really belong in an academic paper.

Third Chapter Analysis
One of her arguments in the conclusion of this chapter, that warrior groups don’t exist in a male vacuum, is a solid argument. But the evidence she offers is incredibly weak and reaching. As for her main argument, that battle-oriented spirits like the einherjar/valkyrjur are linked to Odin’s presence and gender is problematic only because of the “and gender.” Obviously, battle-oriented spirits are linked to Odin’s presence. His gender has nothing to do with his orientation to battle or anything else, generally speaking.

Overall Analysis
I mean, I honestly feel like this entire thesis rests on a very shaky assumption that gods have a gender to begin with rather than being ascribed a gender. Considering that the gods themselves are not beholden to human concepts like morality, it makes no sense to make an argument based on the concept that a god has a gender in the first place. In addition to that, stating that a god’s perceived gender puts that deity into a particular gender/sexual category is another fundamental misunderstanding about the separation that exists between the nature of the gods and the nature of human beings.

In conclusion? This is an atrocious paper founded on, at best, a very flimsy argument.

For those interested in doing their own analysis, here’s the link to the paper:
Óðinn: A Queer týr

6 thoughts on “Analysis of “Óðinn: A Queer týr?””

  1. And yet, because it was published, we know that she got her master’s degree. And she will likely teach. Such is the level of “higher” education in our society.

    If anything, Odin has characteristics of the Northern embodiment of Dionysius. And Odin just doesn’t care about details like this when it comes to making sure he has the BEST warriors for his hall. Or at any other time, as far as I can see from reading the sagas/stories/lore. He cares about preparing for Ragnarok and about knowledge acquisition. To try to overlay any political or social “theory” on anything in the little we have written down is arrogant and self serving.

    I think, personally, queer theory is a bunch of hogwash masquerading as a valid theory. Hypothesis and theory have distinct meanings, and allowing “theory” to be attached to a particular political point of view is really sloppy. It seeks to justify and force acceptance of what was historically a VERY rare phenomenon, and did not remotely exist in its current form. I could care less if someone is gay. I do care if I’m forced to celebrate it and treat them differently because of their sexual preference.

    It does, from the little you’ve written, sound like a perfectly atrocious waste of typing. And a sad reflection on the current state of our institutions.

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    1. Since you brought it up, what evidence do you have that same sex relations were a rare phenomenon? It’s not like Germanic tribes wrote much down in the pre Christian era.. Not sure how people hypothesizing about who Odin is attracted to, is forcing you to change your beliefs, it’s up to you to choose what you believe in and even if they’re right, you don’t have to change anything.

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      1. I actually do not understand this question, as I never said anything about same sex relations being rare. I’m not entirely sure where that comes from.

        I also never said my beliefs were being changed or challenged, so, again, I don’t understand where that’s coming from. I analyzed an academic thesis, and academic work is written to be reviewed.

        On a personal level, I don’t care how she views Odin or whether she sees queer elements in him. I have seen those myself, on a personal level. Her thesis, however, was written on a scholarly level, and she did not have a solid academic foundation upon which to base her argument.

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      2. *sigh* You obviously have an axe to grind. I said nothing about who Odin was attracted to, but I’ll point out, using your own words, that there is nothing in the lore to support the hypothesis that Odin ever had a gay relationship. Nothing. Cross dressing is not the same. I had an uncle who was a cross dresser. He was not gay, in fact he was deeply in love with his wife and they had 7 children. He just happened to like wearing pretty things. And his wife was fine with that.

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  2. Isn’t Mana Polynesian? I’m not sure the Germanic cultures really interacted with Australasian ones(they got around so I know it’s possible), it’s kind of weird to use in in a comparison between Germanic gods, especially since they had their own words for it. Or was it a different “mana” they were referring to?

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    1. It is a Polynesian concept, and it was to that concept that she referred. That is why I found it a stretch – the two cultures were vastly different.

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