Book Series Cursor Mundi, vol. 31

Visions of North in Premodern Europe

Dolly Jørgensen, Virginia Langum (eds)

  • Pages: x + 373 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:17 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2018

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-57475-2
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-57476-9
  • E-book
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An essay collection investigating where, who, and what was envisioned as North in the Premodern era.


“The historical material is treated through various disciplines, such as cultural history, literary studies, art history, environmental history, and the history of science. The volume will be of interest to everybody eager to learn about the North as concept.” (Jolanta Gelumbeckaitė, in Renaissance Quarterly, LXXIII/1, 2020, p. 273)

“An impressive amount of erudition has gone into this project, not to mention linguistic Skill (…) In short, Visions of North in Premodern Europe covers a lot of ground, both literally and historically. There are some fresh perspectives presented upon some old issues, and it is indeed a valuable resource with something for everyone.” (Susan C. Brantly, in Journal of Northern Studies, 14/1, 2020, p. 97-99)

“All in all, the volume comprises a collection of essays, sophisticated in themselves, which engage with modern concerns and new methodologies, but are expertly integrated with each other too.” (Patrick Ball, in Parergon, 37/2, 2020, p. 218)


The North has long attracted attention, not simply as a circumpolar geographical location, but also as an ideological space, a place that is ‘made’ through the understanding, imagination, and interactions of both insiders and outsiders. The envisioning of the North brings it into being, and it is from this starting point that this volume explores how the North was perceived from ancient times up to the early modern period, questioning who, where, and what was defined as North over the course of two millennia.

Covering historical periods as diverse as Ancient Greece to eighteenth-century France, and drawing on a variety of disciplines including cultural history, literary studies, art history, environmental history, and the history of science, the contributions gathered here combine to shed light on one key question: how was the North constructed as a place and a people? Material such as sagas, the ethnographic work of Olaus Magnus, religious writing, maps, medical texts, and illustrations are drawn on throughout the volume, offering important insights into how these key sources continued to be used over time. Selected texts have been compiled into a useful appendix that will be of considerable value to scholars.



Envisioning North from a Premodern Perspective — DOLLY JØRGENSEN AND VIRGINIA LANGUM

Scythia or Elysium? The Land of the Hyperboreans in Early Greek Literature — PÄR SANDIN

Inter imperium sine fine: Thule and Hyperborea in Roman Literature — LEWIS WEBB

The North in Antiquity: Between Maps and Myths — MIRELA AVDAGIC

The Making of Normandy as a Northmen Land: Mythological Cultivation and Coastal Way-Finding — BARBARA AUGER

The North in the Latin History Writing of Twelfth-Century Norway — STEFFEN HOPE

Cold Characters: Northern Temperament in the Premodern Imaginary — VIRGINIA LANGUM

Northern Seas, Marine Monsters, and Perceptions of the Premodern North Atlantic in the Longue Durée — VICKI E. SZABO

Beastly Belonging in the Premodern North — DOLLY JØRGENSEN

Making Sámi of the Scots: Britain’s and Scandinavia’s Near Norths — JEREMY DEANGELO

The Contours of the North? British Mountains and Northern Peoples, 1600–1750 — DAWN HOLLIS

Unknown and Barbarian: Scandinavia and the Boundaries of Civilization in Early Modern Spain — MATEO BALLESTER RODRIGUEZ

Omne malum ab Aquilone: Images of the Evil North in Early Modern Italy and their Impact on Cross-Religious Encounters — HELENA WANGEFELT STRÖM AND FEDERICO BARBIERATO

Elevating the Early Modern North: The Case of the Faroe Islands — KIM SIMONSEN

The Vagina nationum in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Envisioning the North as a Repository of Migrating Barbarians — STEFAN DONECKER

The 'Northern Atlantis' Revisited: Inventing the Arctic Roots of Civilization in Late Eighteenth-Century Paris — PÄIVI MARIA PIHLAJA

Appendix: Excerpts from Primary Sources