Vinland on the brain
Remembering the Norse
in From Iceland to the Americas
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When the adventurer Richard Burton coined the phrase ‘Iceland on the Brain’, he meant the near obsession that many British travellers had with Iceland, its sagas and poems, and natural landscape. A similar brain fever has focused on the brief Viking settlements in North America. Its earliest cases can be diagnosed about two centuries ago, and its symptoms have included poems, novels, travel books, translations, inscriptions, artefacts, archaeological digs, legislation, films, comics, video games, statues, restaurants, music camps, racism, and even a theme park. Having gripped Canada, the United States, and South America, the fever now has spread across the globe. Variously attached to the whimsical, the socio-political and the downright toxic, the condition may not so much have infected individuals as been actively sought out and embraced by them. It is almost as if Vinland has become a kind of free-floating yet powerful signifier.

From Iceland to the Americas

Vinland and historical imagination

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