Synopses & 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.
Karen Oslund is assistant professor of world history at Towson University in Maryland.
"The book is sure to be of interest to those studying Iceland and the North Atlantic's culture and environmental history and those interested in the European understanding of that region. Summing Up: Recommended." -A. E. Leykam, Choice, February 2012
"One should read this book for its history of ideas and perceptions and its grasp of the tensions that exist and have existed at cultural frontiers . . ." -Russell Fielding, Geographical Review, Vol. 102(1)
"The book is well written and detailed. . . . The outcome is a mental journey in the vast and varying region of the North Atlantic, which brings forward surprisingly many details, even for someone raised and living in Iceland." -Helga Ogmundardottir, H-Environment, April 2012
"The narrative moves swiftly and elegantly over unusual grounds." -Arne Kaijser, Technology and Culture, Vol. 53, July 2012
". . . compelling and richly detailed . . ." -Kai Heidemann, H-SAE