Asgard Revisited: Old Norse mythology and national culture in Iceland, 1820-1918

Halink, S., 2017, [Groningen]: University of Groningen. 494 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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  • Simon Halink
This study focuses on the ideological cultivation of Old Norse mythology in the context of Iceland’s growing national self-awareness in the period between ca. 1820 and 1918. Iceland’s medieval Eddas have, in post-medieval times, been appropriated and instrumentalised by Danes, Norwegians, Germans and English, and were labelled ‘Nordic’, ‘Scandinavian’ or ‘Germanic’ rather than Icelandic. Debates on Old Norse-Icelandic culture have shaped not only Icelandic, but also Nordic and other European discourses on cultural identity.
In the course of the nineteenth century, Icelandic intellectuals became inspired by Romantic nationalism and began to reclaim ‘their’ cultural heritage by placing the myths in new interpretational frameworks that were decidedly Icelandic. The long-term process of nationalising the Eddas took many forms and shapes, and manifested itself in the fields of poetry and the visual arts, invented traditions and metaphysics, in journals and newspapers, in public spaces and in academic debates on history, Old Norse philology, and folklore.
How did the Icelandic treatment of Old Norse myth relate to the development of the island’s cultural and political identity? How were ideas about national character negotiated through the cultivation of mythological images? Special attention is paid to the role of myth in national discourses, especially in relation to that other popular genre of medieval Icelandic literature: the Sagas of Icelanders.
Now, for the first time, this multifaceted process – unfolding in the eventful century leading up to the island’s independence of 1918 – is analysed and traced through a wide range of interlocking disciplines. The national cultivation of ancient myth reached well beyond the confinements of literary aesthetics, and into the arena of political ideology. It is this interplay of culture, scholarship and politics that lies at the very heart of this interdisciplinary study.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Award date11-Oct-2017
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-0018-1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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