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Chaucer in Iceland: A Study of the Impact of Scandinavian Identity on Contemporary Medieval Studies

The relatively little studied Iceland is a key centre for the production of art on a global scale; musicians such as Björk and Sigur Rós, to take just two examples, have gained international acclaim and Iceland has the highest percentage of authors per capita in the world. At the same time, the Icelandic tourist industry has experienced a recent boom which reflects a significant public interest in the North, Scandinavian culture and geology. What is it about Iceland and its people that creates such as strong cultural identity?

This project involved my attendance at the New Chaucer Society Congress at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík from the 15th to the 20th July 2014. There hosted a series of interviews with the organisers of the Congress, Congress delegates and Icelanders, which explored key aspects of identity and impact, including: the distinctive nature of Icelandic identity; the influence of this identity on contemporary research; and the effect of holding the Congress in Reykjavík on the international scholarly community.

This project sought to examine and to evaluate current research trends, particularly following several important publications on the medieval North, including that of the first Journal of the International Arthurian Society, which began with an article entitled: ‘Etat present: Arthurian Literature in the North’, and written by two Scandinavian academics, one from Iceland and the other from Norway. The main aim of this project was to use my experience at the NCS Congress to integrate and to evaluate the impact of Scandinavian identity on contemporary Medieval Studies.

Project Supervisor: Dr Christiania Whitehead