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#06 Nord magnétique

Claire McKeown

Jeremy Tranmer

Kerstin Wiedemann

Alessandra Orlandini-Carcreff

The article presents a general overview of Italian travel in Lapland and, more marginally, in Finland in the 19th century; there were not many Italian travelers in the boreal land at that time, but some of their names are still important today in the panorama of travel literature in Scandinavia: Giuseppe Acerbi and Paolo Mantegazza are certainly the most famous, but we also mention Filippo Parlatore, Stéphen Sommier, Carlo Vidua, Giacomo Bove and three almost unknown tourists, Guardino Colleoni, Francesco Podreider and Father Luigi Randi. The article studies their routes, the practical organization and the difficulties of such a journey; we have identified some categories of travelers and, therefore, we analyze the resulting literary production, to seek the specificities that characterize the model of travel relationship in nordic countries.

Kerstin Wiedemann

The German poet and novelist Ida Countess von Hahn is one of the great travellers of the 19th century. She travelled through most of Western Europe, and even to the Near East. Her journey around Scandinavia took place in 1842 at a turning point in representations of the North, when scientific discourse, until then dominant in travel accounts of this region, was supplanted by a discourse related to tourism. The imaginary world of the North, which the author evoked in Reiseversuch im Norden published in 1843, thus rejects a scholarly presentation of the Nordic countries in favour of more personal and subjective evocations. As an expression of a quest rather than of certainties, the text is in line with the logic of borealism and sketches out an "identity-based otherness" (Briens) in a context where tourism ceased to be the privilege of a minority and invented its first standardised and popular formats.

Claire McKeown

The Anglo-Australian author George Egerton (1859-1945) dedicated a significant part of her output to representations of Northern spaces. Her translations in the 1890s gave the British public access to modern Scandinavian text, and several short stories in the collections Keynotes (1893) and Discords (1894) are about Norway. In her descriptions of Nordic landscapes, Egerton combines the natural environment with the inner landscapes of female protagonists, echoing her project of rendering the “terra incognita” of female experience. Her focus on sensory perception earned her accusations of salaciousness, including from her publisher who saw in them the excess typical of “Scandinavian ideas”. Female perspectives and Nordic landscapes are also associated with a magical quality in her texts. In particular, the figure of the witch allows Egerton to combine a sublime image of Norway expected by the Victorian public with an aesthetic representation of female autonomy, especially the autonomy of the gaze highlighted in ekphrastic passages. This article aims to identify the forms of cultural and aesthetic mediation of the North proposed in her texts.

Maxime Leroy

The article deals with the account of a trip to Denmark in 1893 by the Anglo-Irish writers Edith Somerville and Martin Ross. Disconcerted by certain local customs, and above all by the similarities they observed between Denmark and England, they used humour to create a sense of alienness and to captivate readers. But their story is also a reflection on Danish fin-de-siècle society, in particular the status of women from different social classes and the country's leading position in women's emancipation. The article develops the idea that oblique aesthetics are at work in the illustrated narrative, a metaphor for the travellers'position and their method of apprehending Danish society.

Davide Finco

In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, Italy was experiencing its post-war transformation from a largely agrarian, relatively poor nation into one of the most economically and socially advanced countries of the world, whose role in the international scenario grew in importance, especially in the founding of the future European Union. In a rapidly changing society – even as regarded social customs – there increased the curiosity about the way other people and countries approached modernity. Sweden (often standing for the whole Scandinavia) was still an ‘exotic’ area for Italian public, included most intellectuals. My contribution focuses on three movies of the early 1960s (Le svedesi; Il diavolo; Nude, calde e pure), with further hints at the ‘Swedish’ element in other films of the 1960s and 1970s, in order to highlight and discuss how the image of Sweden is stereotyped (as well as problematized) in these relevant Italian works.

Annie Bourguignon

Polar expeditions were very popular everywhere between 1875 and 1914. Nevertheless, a few people voiced critical views. Towards the end of this period, nationalistic feelings increased continuously in all European countries. The First World War – at least at the beginning – found broad support in all countries. But there were a few exceptions, like August Strindberg and Selma Lagerlöf in Sweden, or Karl Kraus in Austria. That those three writers did not share the general appreciation of “the conquest of the North” either is worth consideration. Both Strindberg and Kraus made fun of Cook and Peary, who in 1909 argued, each by himself, that he was first at the North Pole. In Lagerlöf’s The Outcast, we find an upsetting image of an expedition towards the pole, which sheds light on its inhuman aspects. The last part of the article deals with possible connections between pacifism and critical views on polar explorations in the three authors’ works.

Alessandra Ballotti

This article discusses the importance of the media and artistic narration in the reception of polar expeditions by analyzing the case of the 1928 Italian-Norwegian expedition, called Italia. Undertaken by zeppelin and commanded by fascist general Umberto Nobile, this expedition aimed to establish the first permanent colony at the North Pole. The press and intellectual circles of the time welcomed the exploration as a celebration of Italian genius that had managed to establish itself where no other man had ever set foot. However, it was in actuality a tragedy, with an accident on the ice pack, the loss of half of the crew, a makeshift shelter on the ice floe for a month, and the poetic disappearance of Roald Amundsen in the northern mists. These events contributed to defining the legendary character of an expedition that shows to what extent the narrative of the imaginary voyage is important in the construction of the reception of polar expeditions.

Mark Bailoni

The territory of England, or even the whole of the United Kingdom, is often described as divided between the South and the North. Between these two halves of England, there would therefore be a North/South divide, a formula very frequently taken up in the press and in political discourses. Thus, the North of England appears as a specific territory, because of its historical, socio-economic, cultural and identity specificities. This paper then aims to question the perception and definition of Nordicity in England, through a geographical – and more specifically geopolitical – approach and methodology. Indeed, the North and the North-South divide can be defined as geopolitical representations, as they appear indisputable in political discourses, although they are debatable geographical realities. The definition of the North also tends to evolve given recent electoral developments in the country, in connection with Brexit.

Jeremy Tranmer

The Smiths were an English band that gained commercial success and critical acclaim in the 1980s.They were closely associated with Manchester and the North of England. They had Northern accents when they spoke and sang; their lyrics contained references to areas of Manchester and to Northern cultural figures such as the playwright Shelagh Delaney, as did some of their videos; and they discussed their geographical origins in interviews with the music press. Yet their vision of Manchester and the North was far from celebratory and was in some ways quite detached. In fact, The Smiths used an adapted version of the genre of Northern Realism to contest the dominant version of Northernness, which was imposed on the North and held together its imagined community. For example, they promoted more inclusive forms of masculinity. However, their attempts to renew Northernness were stymied by the attitude of the music press. The latter gave The Smiths a platform for them to express their ideas but tended to reinforce traditional conceptions of the North in the way they presented the band.

Thomas Mohnike

The article explores the main structuring elements of the national mythology of Sweden as promoted in Selma Lagerlöf’s Wonderful Journey through Sweden (1906/07), understood as mythemes of social knowledge. After a perhaps too short discussion of the main theoretical and methodological choices, including the concept of mytheme and homo narrans in the context of general narratology and media change, the article proceeds in the discussion of the results obtained by a computational method developed by Ludovic Stappazzon and the author. 196 common mythemes are mapped as a network of units representing the probability of co-occurrence in the narrative. Most Central Chronotope mythemes are Forest, Way, Water, Farm, Land and Lake, which are until today main elements of a national imaginative geography. Action mythemes relate to the idea of education, related in turn to the concept of family. Human and non-human actors and chronotopes are clearly divided as two spheres in the narrative grammar, underlining the nature-culture-divide central to the narration. 

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