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Iceland and Images of the North

Edited by Sumarlidi Isleifsson

Publication Year: 2011

With a radically changing world, cultural identity and images have emerged as one of the most challenging issues in the social and cultural sciences. These changes provide an occasion for a thorough reexamination of cultural, historical, political, and economic aspects of society. The INOR (Iceland and Images of the North) group is an interdisciplinary group of Icelandic and non-Icelandic scholars whose recent research on contemporary and historical images of Iceland and the North seeks to analyze the forms these images assume, as well as their function and dynamics. The 21 articles in this book allow readers to seize the variety and complexity of the issues related to images of Iceland.

Published by: Presses de l'Université du Québec

Series: Droit au Pôle


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pp. 1-4

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 5-8

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Table of illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-2

INOR is a collective project on Iceland and images of the North, the purpose of which is to conduct multidisciplinary studies on the identity appropriation of the idea of North. It is thus part of a fertile current of thought that began a few years ago and that seeks to compare the paradigms underlying the imagined world of winter, the North, and the Arctic. ...

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Introduction: Imaginations of National Identity and the North

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pp. 3-22

Jón Ólafsson (1593–1679) is known in Iceland as Indíafari, or the Traveller to India.2 In his autobiography, he gives a recount of a visit with his Icelandic companions to a restaurant in Copenhagen, where he lived as a young man. He describes the visit thus: ...

Historical Images

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The Emergence of Norðrlönd in Old Norse Medieval Texts, ca. 1100–1400

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pp. 25-40

The subject of this article is the emergence of the term Norðrlönd in Old Norse textual culture, the different meaning and functions of this term, and its connection with the idea of a Northern people who shared certain features, such as a common language, history, and identity. This will be explained through analysis of the precise meaning of the term Norðrlönd within medieval discourse, ...

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Islands on the Edge: Medieval and Early Modern National Images of Iceland and Greenland

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pp. 41-66

In this article accounts of Iceland and Greenland from the late Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century will be examined with consideration given to the type of national images appearing there. The aim of the article is to explain these images and discuss their development and origin, not least how ideas about islands and the North in general have influenced the descriptions of these two countries. ...

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The Greco-Roman Heritage and Image Construction in Iceland 1830–1918

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pp. 67-114

Neo-humanistic classical education formed the core of secondary education for the Icelandic elite throughout the 19th century. Classical texts of the Greco-Roman heritage were utilized to instill civic virtues and establish bonds of friendship among future leaders of the Icelandic nation. These texts helped to shape the self-image of Icelanders as inhabitants of a country ...

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Old Norse Poetry and New Beginnings in Late 18th- and Early 19th-Century Literature

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pp. 115-156

This article first examines the image of northern antiquity conveyed in the productive reception of Old Norse literature by European writers and poets in the later 18th century, when this heritage at last attracted a non-scholarly international readership. Initially, European writers were impressed especially by the primitive and the sublime in Old Norse literature. ...

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Old Norse–Icelandic Literature and German Culture

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pp. 157-186

The perception of Old Norse literature in post-medieval times moves between an aesthetically motivated international interest and its constriction initially to national and then nationalistic concerns. The article examines this development by analyzing how Old Norse material is used for the construction of a German national consciousness ...

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Racist Caricatures in Iceland in the Early 20th Century

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pp. 187-204

In this article, I take the republication of the book Tíu litlir negrastrákar (hereafter Ten Little Negroes) in Iceland as an example of how Iceland is often exempted from the global heritage of racism. As scholars have started to explore relatively recently, the Nordic tends to have a hegemonic position as existing separate from colonialism of the 19th and early 20th centuries. ...

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Monuments to Settlers of the North: A Means to Strengthen National Identity

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pp. 205-228

In this article two topics will be discussed: a) Icelanders’ proposal to erect a memorial to the country’s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, and the ensuing public debate and b) the background to the memorial to Thorfinnur Karlsefni, who is said to have settled in the New World shortly after 1000 AD, and the debate that took place in North America. ...

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Images of the North, Sublime Nature, and a Pioneering Icelandic Nation

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pp. 229-254

This article sheds light on the issue of national identity as related to the Tourist Association of Iceland, which was founded near the end of the 1920s. Written Association sources illustrate how the leading participants interpreted their work ideologically, with nationalistic connotations. Not only did they see themselves as heirs of Iceland’s celebrated first settler, ...

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Between Nostalgia and Modernity: Competing Discourses in Travel Writing about the Nordic North

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pp. 255-282

In travel narratives by 19th-century visitors, the Nordic North generally emerges as pre-modern and uncivilized. Yet the most widespread view of the Nordic countries today is that they are socially progressive, liberal, and politically advanced. The connection between present-day socio-political discourses and cultural discourses of the past thus seems to be very weak or even absent. ...

Contemporary Images

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The Image of Iceland in the Local and Global Nexus of Whaling Politics

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pp. 285-304

This paper looks at the development of the whaling debates and their contribution to the international image of Iceland. It traces the debates through two stages: an “era of peaceful protest” from ca. 1978 to 1985 and a “battle-lines” period after 1985, explaining the positions of both sides and the images each produced. For the anti-whaling side, ...

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Banking on Borealism: Eating, Smelling, and Performing the North

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pp. 305-328

This article examines the exotic performances and representations of Icelanders and “the North” (or Borealism) in media and daily life, focusing on food traditions and their practice within intricate foreign–native power relations and transnational folkloric encounters. It suggests a theory for understanding the dynamics, agency, ...

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Drinking in Iceland and Ideas of the North

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pp. 329-350

It is hypothesized that ideas about the North as an extreme and turbulent force have been instrumental in shaping images relating to Icelanders’ drinking culture and the imagined position of alcohol in the community. In line with this understanding, the governing image of the position of alcohol in society has been of an excessive drinking pattern ...

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Nature, Nostalgia, and Narrative: Material Identity in Icelandic Design

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pp. 351-372

This paper studies design objects in two tourist outlets in Reykjavík from the perspective of material culture studies and anthropology. The two cases are put into context with public discourse on Icelandic design in general, with a particular emphasis on the genre of product design. It discusses the rather recent development of Icelandic design as a cultural commodity, ...

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The Use of English in Iceland: Convenience or a Cultural Threat? A Lingua Franca or Lingua Detrimental?

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pp. 373-404

The Icelandic language has been the primary criterion for national identity and has played an important role in the image of Iceland within the Nordic countries. The article traces the role of how linguistic nationalism gained an indisputable position for the Icelandic language as the foundation of national identity in the country. During the period of independence struggle, ...

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The Gender-Equal North: Icelandic Images of Femininity and Masculinity

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pp. 405-434

This article explores the somewhat imaginary notion of the gender-equal North that signifies a crucial element of national identity in the Nordic countries. Attributes of this are various attempts to export the Nordic gender equality model. One of its trademarks is the notion of the “decent” Nordic man or the caring father, but a negative spin-off ...

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Staging the Nation: Performing Icelandic Nationality during the 1986 Reykjavík Summit

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pp. 435-460

The 1986 Reykjavík Summit, where U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev held an impromptu meeting to discuss nuclear disarmament, suddenly thrust Iceland, a small marginalized island nation, into the world media spotlight. This article examines the way in which the summit as a global media event ...

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The New Viking Wave: Cultural Heritage and Capitalism

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pp. 461-480

This article focuses on the ambivalent theme of Viking heritage, myth, and image deriving from the Old North within modern Icelandic society and its effect on Icelandic national image and identity. It sheds light on its development and use in social, cultural, and historical context and questions why this particular element has constantly been used ...

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Foreign Fictions of Iceland

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pp. 481-512

This article will examine ways in which Iceland has been fictionally recreated by the foreign imagination and assess to what extent stereotypical images of Iceland are perpetuated, challenged, and/or reconstructed in contemporary foreign fiction. The role of Iceland in fiction from different countries will be discussed and compared, as well as the way Iceland is “contained” ...

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The “North” and the “Idea of Iceland”: Contemporary Cross-Cultural Construction of Representations of Iceland

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pp. 513-530

This article studies a cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary process that leads to the creation of some new artistic representations of Iceland. This process began with an academic conference about the images of the North and the production of children’s drawings about the idea of the North, which resulted in the creation of a book of fiction ...

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Reflecting Images: The Front Page of Icelandic Tourism Brochures

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pp. 531-552

One of the most popular tools to promote tourist destinations is the publication of travel brochures. This study explores image-making in material that promotes Icelandic tourism on a regional and national basis and its effect on the conceptualization of different regional tourist destinations. ...

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Nation-Branding: A Critical Evaluation: Assessing the Image Building of Iceland

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pp. 553-582

Icelanders have long been image conscious. But only recently with Icelandic companies expanding abroad has a concerted effort towards image building been set in motion. With the budding expansion, the Icelandic Trade Council invested in an analysis of “the image of Iceland,” which was conducted by the Office of the Prime Minister ...

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Notes on contributors

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pp. 583-588

Daniel Chartier is a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal. During the past years, he has published several books and articles, including L’Émergence des classiques, Le(s) Nord(s) imaginaire(s) (2008), “Les modernités amérindiennes et inuites” (Globe, 2005), and an essay on the foreign image of Iceland during the crisis ...

Places, persons, people, institutions, and events mentioned in the articles

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pp. 589-612

E-ISBN-13: 9782760530874
Print-ISBN-13: 9782760530850

Page Count: 628
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Droit au Pôle

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnicity -- Iceland.
  • Iceland -- Relations.
  • Iceland -- Public opinion.
  • Iceland -- Public opinion -- History.
  • Arctic regions -- Relations.
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