Andrew Wawn

Professor of Anglo-Icelandic Literature

+44(0) 113 343 4726

Summary: Post-medieval reception of medieval literature: initially medieval English literature and, more recently, Old Icelandic literature

Research

The broad theme of my research work over the last two decades has been the post-medieval reception of medieval literature: initially medieval English literature and, more recently, Old Icelandic literature. In particular I have sought to investigate the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British discovery of Old Icelandic eddic poetry and saga prose: (i) the ways in which it was accessed, edited, translated, paraphrased, popularised and otherwise promoted for a growing and increasingly enthusiastic readership; (ii) the complex web of reasons which created the striking levels of popularity which the old north had achieved by the end of the nineteenth-century. This work has involved the examination of a cluster of related themes and figures: the Victorian 'invention' of the idea of the Viking, eddic poetry and the gothic sublime, the emergence of a recognisable canon of Icelandic sagas accessible to an English-language readership, the cult of saga-stead travel, the aesthetics of saga translation, the search for pagan folklore, the politicisation of philology, the tension between Graeco-Roman and old northern culture, William Morris's old north, old northern literature and the British education system, and the idea of Iceland in Britain and of Britain in Iceland. Many of these elements are treated in my most recent book, The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in Victorian Britain (2000; paperback edition 2002). Among current projects are (i) a study of the Victorian Icelandicist and folklorist Sabine Baring-Gould; and (ii) a study of the medieval and post-medieval contexts of Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar.