Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School

Humanities

Committee Chair

Dr. Jameela Lares

Committee Chair School

Humanities

Committee Member 2

Dr. Damon Franke

Committee Member 2 School

Humanities

Committee Member 3

Dr. Nicolle Jordan

Committee Member 3 School

Humanities

Committee Member 4

Dr. Alexandra Valint

Committee Member 4 School

Humanities

Abstract

In my dissertation, I examine literature that participates in nineteenth-century British engagement with the idea of the North, hereafter referred to as the literary North. Such an examination is important to Victorian studies and to our understanding of nineteenth-century British literature as a whole because it demonstrates Victorian interest in adding an Anglo-Nordic identity to a national identity already complicated by Celtic, Roman, and other identities, as well as challenging the existing Græco-Roman linguistic and cultural hegemony of that era. The space of the periphery, I argue, is key to understanding how Anglo-Norse identity is created and expressed in literature championing the idea of the North. For my study, I examine works by Anthony Trollope and Rudyard Kipling, as well as nineteenth-century English translations of Esaias Tegnér’s Frithiof’s Saga. Through my analysis of these texts, I demonstrate that the region of the North, as a British imaginary, exerts its own magnetism, alternately creating tension and cooperation with the status quo of the center, on England. For as England seeks the homogeneity of the center, the story of Britain is one of hybridity, defined by and against the regional identities located at the periphery. I maintain that the study of the literary North generates deeper understanding of British and English identity, which are often conflated. I further contend that the literary North, as a literature of the periphery, disrupts the “false universalism” of the center. Finally, I argue that the Anglo-Nordic hybrid identity as imagined in these narratives is reshaped to fit a particularly Victorian world view, especially as Victorians approach the threshold and enter into the uncertainties of the new century. Anglo-Nordic literature, especially retellings of the sagas that feature Ragnarök, the apocalyptic final battle of the Norse gods, mingles Victorian anxieties about invasion and apocalypse with the uncomfortable reminder that empires fall. Furthermore, in stressing duty over desire, these narratives privilege Victorian values, even as they celebrate Viking heroism.

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