Spectral Vikings in nineteenth-century American poetry
in From Iceland to the Americas
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Nineteenth-century American poets used Viking artefacts (real and fake) and the Vinland Sagas to help their readers connect, emotionally as well as intellectually, to the deep past. In Samuel Bellamy Beach’s Escalala, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘Skeleton in Armor’, Lydia Huntley Sigourney’s ‘Newport Tower’, and Sidney Lanier’s ‘Psalm of the West’, Vikings appear as spectral figures, representing ancient history while also posing more current questions about the relationship between whiteness, indigeneity, and national identity. When figured as the first so-called ‘Saxons’ to reach the New World, Vikings helped poets to romanticise, to celebrate – and sometimes, though rarely, to question – the legitimacy of the European colonial project.

From Iceland to the Americas

Vinland and historical imagination

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