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HomeNorthernness: concepts, representations, images

Northernness: concepts, representations, images

De la nordicité : concept, représentation, imaginaire

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Published on Monday, April 10, 2017


Ce colloque s’intéressera aux représentations du Nord dans la littérature et les arts européens. Il s’agira de comparer ces représentations chez les artistes et auteurs nordiques, mais aussi les autres Européens, et ainsi tenter de mieux cerner les différents concepts et modèles de nordicité. On s’interrogera sur les caractéristiques du concept pluriel de nordicité et sur la possibilité d’en retracer la généalogie, on s’intéressera aussi bien aux différents modèles de nordicité qui émergent au XIXe siècle qu’à leur évolution et leur transformation au cours des XXe et XXIe siècles.


Université de Haute-Alsace, Institut de Recherche en Langues et Littératures Européennes (ILLE - EA 4363)

Mulhouse, 12-13 October 2017


In recent years, Nordic culture has gained in international recognition through popular novels and television series. Alongside this trend, researchers are examining the nature, conceptualisation, cultural implications and characteristics of the North.

Authors and critics have attached different meanings to the term “northernness”. In the 1910s, C.S. Lewis discovered Wagner and the Icelandic sagas. Later, the concept of northernness reflected his fascination with Northern settings, and described an imagined, unreachable place. In Nordicité canadienne (1975), the geographer Louis-Edmond Hamelin develops the concept of “nordicity” within an American context, and goes on to link it with other Northern regions around the world. Kari Aga Myklebost and Sylvain Briens explore the notion of “borealism” in the 2010s, and underline the cultural and identity-related dimension of the North. 

This conference will focus on the characteristics and genealogy of this plural concept, and on the varying models of northernness which emerged in the 19th century, as well as their evolution and transformation over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. We will consider representations of the North in European art and literature, in order to compare Nordic portrayals of the North with those of other European artists and authors, and build a wider picture of the different concepts and models of northernness. The turn of the 20th century was a turbulent time for Nordic culture, where a fascination with Nordic mythology, inherited from romanticism, met with the innovations of modernism on an international scale. The plural nature of Northernness is already clear in 19th Century Nordic literature and art, and in its reception during the Modern Breakthrough. Certain neighbouring countries felt compelled to include themselves in this notion of Northernness, while still acknowledging its air of exoticism. Other more distant countries saw it only as the opposite of the rich cultural life associated with the South. This was the case in several Southern European countries, where the “exotic” elements of Northern culture were adapted to local tastes. 

While Northernness is determined by geographical locations, it is also a relative notion which depends not only on physical positions but also on cultural constructions, self-image and imagined realities. Although we have chosen to focus on the North of Europe, this conference is open to scholars in Scandinavian arts and literature as well as those working on other European countries. It aims to combine differing perspectives on Northernness including introspective Scandinavian perspectives, those of other European artists and authors, and perspectives on other “Norths”. 

All critical and theoretical approaches are welcome. Papers may address the following topics, among others: 

  • Authors and artists’ concepts and representations of the North of Europe 
  • Concepts and representations of other Northern regions 
  • Northernness as otherness or shared identity 
  • Geographical realities and images of Northernness 
  • Northernness from history and mythology to modernity 
  • The influence of Nordic literature in Europe 

Submission guidelines

Proposals of approximately 200 words, with a title and a short biographical note, should be sent to the following addresses

before the 15th of June 2017:

frederique.toudoire@uha.fr ; alessandra.ballotti@uha.fr ; claire.mckeown@uha.fr . 

They will be evaluated by the scientific committee. A peer-reviewed publication will follow the conference. 

Working languages: French and English 

Conference fees

  • 40 € per day (20 € for PhD students),
  • 70 € for both days (35 € for PhD students).
  • Attendance is free for members of ILLE.


  • 2 Rue des Frères Lumière
    Mulhouse, France (68)


  • Thursday, June 15, 2017

Information source

  • Alessandra Ballotti
    courriel : alessandra [dot] ballotti [at] uha [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Northernness: concepts, representations, images », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, April 10, 2017, https://calenda.org/402094

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