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

Paperback | February 14, 2013

byKaren OslundForeword byWilliam Cronon

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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.

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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 t...

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

other books by Karen Oslund

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6.03 × 0.68 inPublished:February 14, 2013Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:029599293X

ISBN - 13:9780295992938

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Table of Contents

MapsForeword by William CrononAcknowledgements

Introduction. Imagining Iceland: Narrating the North1. Icelandic Landscapes: Natural Histories and National Histories2. Nordic by Nature: Classifying and Controlling Flora and Fauna in Iceland3. Mastering the World's Edges: Technology, Tools, and Material Culture in the North Atlantic4. Translating and Converting: Language and Religion in Greenland5. Reading Backward: Language and the Sagas in the Faroe IslandsEpilogue. Whales and Men: Contested Scientific Ethics and Cultural Politics in the North Atlantic

NotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

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.An excellent work, covering unusual ground. The author's mastery of a variety of contexts—Inuit, Faroese, Icelandic, Scandinavian—and different periods—historical and modern—is admirable. Not only does Iceland Imagined nicely chart important historical contours in the North Atlantic region, it offers numerous useful and original observations on themes in history, anthropology, literature, and linguistics. - Gisli Palsson, University of Iceland