From Iceland to the Americas, an anthology of thirteen original critical essays, is an exercise in the reception of a small historical fact with wide-ranging social, cultural, and imaginative consequences. Medieval records claim that around the year 1000 Leif Eiriksson and other Nordic explorers sailed westwards from Iceland and Greenland to a place they called Vinland. Archaeological evidence has in fact verified this claim, though primarily by way of one small, short-lived Norse settlement in Newfoundland, which may not even have been Leif’s. Whether or not this settlement was his, however, the contact associated with him has had an outsized impact on cultural imagination in and of the Americas. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, indeed, novels, poetry, history, politics, arts and crafts, comics, films and video games have all reflected a rising interest in the medieval Norse and their North American presence. Uniquely in reception studies, From Iceland to the Americas approaches this dynamic between Nordic history and its reception by bringing together international authorities on mythology, language, film, and cultural studies, as well as on the literature that has dominated critical reception. Collectively, the essays not only explore the connections among medieval Iceland and the modern Americas, but also probe why medieval contact has become a modern cultural touchstone.
reached many people, Loewen’s book illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the popular history genre: it insightfully argues that what is important about the OldNorsesagas is that they show how the Norse fought against and lost to indigenous peoples, but its insights are tempered by Loewen’s own misunderstanding of medieval history and culture.
In performing this analysis, I want to uncover the importance of popular works of historical non-fiction, as well as highlight an essentially pro-indigenous application of the Vinland sagas: namely, that it is not so
Countries , p. 33. Framing Lapland and as its peoples as both primitive and mysterious in fact predates English treatments of the region, occurring already in medieval Scandinavian accounts. See Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the OldNorseSagas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 62–79.
25 Von Troil, Letters on Iceland , p. 87.
26 Wollstonecraft, Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark , pp. 6 and 7.
27 Landor, Adventures in the North of Europe , vol. 2, p. 85.
28 Burton, Ultima Thule , vol. 1
Morris at least, the intention of the archaic language was quite the opposite: to demonstrate affinities between Norwegian and modern English. See ‘The OldNorsesagas and William Morris’s ideal of literal translation’, Review of English Studies 67 (2016), 220–36, and William Morris and the Icelandic Sagas , pp. 111–34. See his essay and book for further discussion of Victorian suspicion about ‘pseudo-Middle-English’, and also for consideration of Morris’s increasingly affected style.
67 Felce, William Morris and the Icelandic Sagas , p. 129.