Association of Art Historian (AAH) 2016 Annual Conference and Bookfair
University of Edinburgh
7 – 9 April 2016
The Idea of North: Myth-making and identities – Call for Papers
Frances Fowle, University of Edinburgh, frances.fowle [at] ed.ac.uk
Marja Lahelma, University of Helsinki, marja.lahelma [at] helsinki.fi
The north is an elusive and ambivalent concept with both negative and positive associations. 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 19th 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 19th century, northern artists were elevated to a prominent position on the international stage. There was even a popular belief that it was now Scandinavia’s turn to lead the intellectual advance of humanity. This notion was supported by the theosophical formulation that it was time for the ‘northern race’ to take over.
This session sets out to investigate the mythical associations and cultural appropriation of ‘north’ and ‘northernness’ in 19th- and 20th-century European visual culture. We invite papers 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. Papers can relate to individual artists and artworks, particular geographical regions or specific artistic and cultural phenomena, as well as to broader ideas associated with northernness.
Papers on contemporary artists who engage with northernness will also be considered.
Email paper proposals to the session convenor(s) by 9 November 2015. Download a Paper Proposal Guidelines