This is a call for abstracts for an online-publication on ‘Northernness’ in visual culture edited by Frances Fowle and Marja Lahelma, to be published by The Birch and the Star as part of the series ‘Studies in the Long Nineteenth-Century’. The publication will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence in 2017.
Mythical notions of the north have existed in European culture since antiquity, fuelled at various times by archaeological discoveries and cultural revivals. Romanticism brought on a veritable ‘cult of the north’, which gained in strength throughout the nineteenth century, riding on the back of the nationalist wave that swept across Europe at the fin-de-siècle. Northernness is not a simple concept; while the Nordic people were associated with purity, originality and subjectivity, the Celts were regarded as creative and noble, yet feckless and irrational. Nevertheless, partly through the impact of Wagner’s operas and Macpherson’s Ossian, by the end of the nineteenth century, northern artists were elevated to a prominent position on the international stage. This notion was supported by the theosophical formulation that it was time for the ‘northern race’ to take over.
This publication will examine the mythical associations and cultural appropriation of ‘north’ and ‘northernness’ in European and North American visual culture in the long nineteenth century. We invite abstracts that examine the revival and assimilation of the north and northernness, taking into consideration, for example, mythical origins, spiritual and theosophical agendas, or notions of race and/or national identities. Topics might relate to individual artists and artworks, particular geographical regions or specific artistic and cultural phenomena, as well as to broader ideas associated with northernness.