Iceland Imagined: Nature, Culture, and Storytelling in the North Atlantic

Overview

Iceland, Greenland, Northern Norway, and the Faroe Islands lie on the edges of Western Europe, in an area long portrayed by travelers as remote and exotic--its nature harsh, its people reclusive. Since the middle of the eighteenth century, however, this marginalized region has gradually become part of modern Europe, a transformation that is narrated in Karen Oslund's Iceland Imagined.

This cultural and environmental history sweeps across the dramatic North Atlantic landscape, ...

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Overview

Iceland, Greenland, Northern Norway, and the Faroe Islands lie on the edges of Western Europe, in an area long portrayed by travelers as remote and exotic--its nature harsh, its people reclusive. Since the middle of the eighteenth century, however, this marginalized region has gradually become part of modern Europe, a transformation that is narrated in Karen Oslund's Iceland Imagined.

This cultural and environmental history sweeps across the dramatic North Atlantic landscape, exploring its unusual geography, saga narratives, language, culture, and politics, and analyzing its emergence as a distinctive and symbolic part of Europe. The earliest visions of a wild frontier, filled with dangerous and unpredictable inhabitants, eventually gave way to images of beautiful, well-managed lands, inhabited by simple but virtuous people living close to nature. This transformation was accomplished by state-sponsored natural histories of Iceland which explained that the monsters described in medieval and Renaissance travel accounts did not really exist, and by artists who painted the Icelandic landscapes to reflect their fertile and regulated qualities. Literary scholars and linguists who came to Iceland and Greenland in the nineteenth century related the stories and the languages of the "wild North" to those of their home countries.

Karen Oslund is assistant professor of world history at Towson University in Maryland.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

". . . compelling and richly detailed . . ." -Kai Heidemann, H-SAE
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295990835
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 5/6/2011
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Maps

The North Atlantic 8

Iceland 37

Greenland 87

Faroe Islands 125

Foreword

Amid the Mists of Northern Waters and Words William Cronon vii

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction

Imagining Iceland, Narrating the North 3

1 Icelandic Landscapes

Natural Histories and National Histories 30

2 Nordic by Nature

Classifying and Controlling Flora and Fauna in Iceland 61

3 Mastering the World's Edges

Technology, Tools, and Material Culture in the North Atlantic 82

4 Translating and Converting

Language and Religion in Greenland 104

5 Reading Backward

Language and the Sagas in the Faroe Islands 123

Epilogue

Whales and Men

Contested Scientific Ethics and Cultural Politics in the North Atlantic 152

Notes 171

Bibliography 221

Index 253

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