Gillian C. W. Reynolds (IIICH, University of Birmingham)

Constructing New Town Identity: Myth, Heritage & ImagiNation

Constructing New Towns or cities is more than building houses, planning infrastructure and providing jobs, it is also essential to create communities and cultivate a sense of place or genius loci. Using the main case study of Telford New Town, which was designated in 1968, this paper analyses the way in which mythmaking has been utilised and adopted within New Town planning over the past 50 years, and assesses the influence this has had within the British public's national psyche, described here as the collective imagiNation. This paper explores the relationship between myth and heritage within the context of rupture and change; examining how these interrelated notions make real a variety of identities through visual representations and public art. Branded and promoted as the 'Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution', Telford New Town demonstrates the relationship between local myths and legends and the national 'mythscape'. As the location of one of Britain's first World Heritage Sites, with the Ironbridge Gorge celebrated for its industrial achievements and the 'Great Men' which pioneered such advancements, the New Town has been mythologized through such narrative. Through the careful construction of an authorized heritage, Telford has been woven into the nation's past, present and future. It was the intention of the Development Corporation for Telford New Town to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the Industrial Revolution, to stand on the shoulders of the great industrialists of the long nineteenth century, and ultimately to ensure the nation's role, imagined or otherwise, in the 'white heat of technology'.

Keywords: Cultural Heritage, New Town Planning, Myth, Industrial Heritage, Community Identity


Richard F. Vert Jr. (Durham University)

Symeon’s Libellus and the identity of the Haliwerfolc

This paper will examine the role played by Symeon of Durham in helping to create, in his Libellus de exordio, a number of the conditions, ideological and locational, of considerable significance in the formation of the later identity of the Haliwerfolc, the people of St Cuthbert.  Anthony Smith defines an ethnic community as ‘a named human population occupying a historic territory and sharing common myths and memories, a public culture, and common customs and laws for all members’ (Smith, 2003).  Ethnic identities often form under times of stress (Eriksen, 2010) and the recently reformed Community of St Cuthbert found itself under attack from the rapacious Ranulf Flambard (Bishop of Durham 1099-1128).  Bede's portrait of Cuthbert as the ideal monk and his expressed belief in strong monastic communities created a template Symeon used to fill the Community's political needs.   Symeon updated Bede’s historical writings with recent examples of Cuthbert’s miracles derived from oral histories and information from the few extant written tracts (Rollason, 2000) to demonstrate the continuity of the current Community with the past.  This paper will cite the Libellus as an example of establishing an “ideological descent” (Smith, 1999) for the Haliwerfolc based around St Cuthbert’s role as the defender of the Church.  Other facets of the Libellus, such as the establishment of a territorial link to St Cuthbert by naming the sites of miracles and documenting the unique laws of the Community, will be shown to be factors in identifying the Haliwerfolc as a distinct ethnic group.  History writing is usually a product of the author’s environment (Eriksen, 2010) and demonstrating the impact of the Libellus in the development of the Haliwerfolc’s identity will lead to a greater understanding of the role historical literature played in ethnic identification during the twelfth century.

Keywords: landscape, Cuthbert, Symeon, Haliwerfolc


Marie-Alix Thouaille (University of East Anglia) 

‘Intelligent Female Nonsense’: Pastoral, National Identity, and Shakespearean Misrule in A Canterbury Tale (1944) and I Know Where I’m Going! (1945)

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s wartime films, A Canterbury Tale (1944) and I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), both feature an independent, urban, female protagonist, whose trajectory across Britain dramatises contemporary anxieties regarding wartime gender roles. Mobile women Alison Smith (Sheila Sim) and Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) each interrupt their intended journeys and cross over into idiosyncratic, pastoral territory. Respectively set in the Kentish country village of Chillingbourne, and the Scottish Isle of Mull, both films are characterised by landscapes imbued with myth and oneirism. In A Canterbury Tale, a mysterious local vigilante incongruously pours glue into women’s hair. Wartime ‘topsy-turvy’ so pervades Chillingbourne that one of its visitors concludes that ‘the whole village’s cracked!’ In I Know Where I’m Going!, magical Scottish curses and Norwegian legends abound, and a thick fog envelops Mull’s landscape to striking Gothic effect. This paper argues that although A Canterbury Tale and I Know Where I’m Going! appear subversive on the surface, both films teem with conventional material. Building on Andrew Moor (2005) and Tison Pugh (2009), I contend that both films can be viewed through the lens of pastoral literature, a context which illuminates both films’ investment in spurious wartime fantasies of rural Britain. I additionally suggest that Shakespearean misrule provides a crucial framework to untangle seemingly irreconcilable interpretations of the films. The ostensibly benevolent enabling gentry, I will show, functions as an embodiment of pastoral and misrule, a disabling device systematically deployed against, and designed to neutralise the threat posed by, non-traditional women. Both films cloak not ‘the terrifying spectacle of women getting their own way’ (Harper 1996, 210), but the age-old taming narrative of men getting their own way over ‘intelligent female nonsense.’ 

Keywords: Gender, Pastoral, WII, Mythical Landscape, Powell and Pressburger


Nicolas Brinded (Goldsmiths, University of London)

The myth making of nation building: Walden and the technological sublime

This paper will explore the role of the sublime as a mythic structure that became linked to an American idea of nationalism. In the nineteenth-century, the first painters of American scenery used the aesthetics of the natural sublime to hint at the grandeur of the New World, and the boundless possibility and plenty offered by the largely untouched continent. In the later nineteenth-century and early twentieth century the sublime mutated into a celebration of man-made feats. Railroads, bridges, and skyscrapers came to be regarded as an American technological sublime, and were celebrated as examples of native industry and craftsmanship. The technological sublime replaced the natural sublime both figuratively and literally, as the country became more and more overrun by Euro-American colonization, and wilderness areas were annexed to National Parks.

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854) dramatizes the narrator’s encounter with the technological sublime, which is represented by the railroad that runs through the south end of the pond. Walden was written during the period in which the railroad was expanding throughout the United States, and the natural sublime was making way for the technological sublime. Thoreau is both fascinated and appalled, and spends much time pondering the implications of the railroad upon commerce, as well as celebrating its technological achievements. I argue that Thoreau attempts to enfold the railroad into a version of the landscape sublime, but finds that he is unable to when he considers the wider picture of capitalism into which it fits. Through Thoreau’s ambivalent relationship to the railroad I will explore myths around which ideas of American nationalism were constructed.

Keywords: Walden, Thoreau, USA, American literature, nineteenth century, nature, trains, technology, sublime, railroad


Lauren Moffat (University of Glasgow)

‘Pine Again for that Dread Country Crystalline’: Displacement, Replacement and the Problem with Home in the Poetry of Edwin Muir

The classical myths persist today as an immutable bank of cultural narrative that breach national and linguistic barriers and, as a result, say something shared across time and space. Many modernist writers, perhaps Joyce most famously, used the cultural authority of these myths in order to try and speak through them to the modern world and attempt to elucidate the place of humankind within it. This essay seeks to examine the particular ways in which the poetry of Edwin Muir sought to bring together the emergent nationalist discourses of inter-war era Scotland with ‘near yet distant Classical equivalents’ (Crawford 2011, pp.135-136) in order to shed light upon Scotland’s often problematic relationship with its own national myths.

Starting from an investigation of the modernist writer’s relationship to place in towards reaching an understanding of how the native and the foreign place work differently on the literary imagination, this essay seeks to explore Muir’s work in terms of a desire to reassert a functioning national consciousness away from empty national clichés towards meaningful political and social change. Raising concerns about the depleted state of the empty national home of 1940s Scotland, Muir offers a vision for the national home based on the will of the people of Scotland to save themselves from a pervasive inertia by establishing a spiritually and politically functioning national home.

Keywords: poetry, modernism, Scotland, myth, nation, home


Chloe Sharpe (University of York)

(Re-)Constructing Spain: Francisco Parcerisa’s Cultural Nationalism in Recuerdos y bellezas de España (1839-1872)

'We will make it so that people, who may not even know that their fatherland contains beautiful memories and monuments, pay attention to them and learn that not everything is on the other side of the Pyrenees.'

These boldly nationalistic claims are made in the introduction to Recuerdos y Bellezas de España, a historical and artistic travel guide to Spain conceived, edited and illustrated by the Catalan artist Francisco Parcerisa (1803-75), with texts by four important literary and political figures of the age. The first and most ambitious Spanish contribution to a literary and artistic genre dominated by foreigners, it was published in instalments over 33 turbulent years of “continuous political upheavals, bombings ... and other calamities”, many of which were revolutions and civil wars fought precisely over the question of what form the nation-state should take.

This article will examine, for the first time, the nationalistic aspect of the series. The first part will discuss how Parcerisa inevitably constructs a myth of nation around cultural output, even whilst his stated aim is to reflect and to catalogue with “exactitude” those monuments which British and French are accused of “disfiguring”. This construction includes artistic re-constructions of monuments lost as a result of political turmoil. Looking at the uneasy relationship with the foreign, it will also identify French artistic sources which Parcerisa appropriated directly.

The second part will argue that Recuerdos can best be categorised by historian Álvarez Junco’s term “cultural nationalism”, closely connected to the ethnic strand of nationalism and opposed to the civic model, associated with French domination. Emphatically unaggressive, Parcerisa’s approach attempts to unite the Spanish people through a shared culture. His cultural nationalism is, paradoxically, part of an international movement to preserve the past.

Keywords: Spain, Spanish, travel writing, travelogue, monuments, landscape, nationalism, nineteenth century


Peter Slater (University of Glasgow)

Tourism, Perception and Genre: Imagining and Re-imagining Venice in Victorian Travel Writing

Venice held an unusual place in the Victorian imagination. In nineteenth-century Britain, Venice was widely documented. It was the subject of sustained inspection both as a textual and a physical space. This article traces a textual dialogue between three key voices in the representation of Venice to the British public in mid-nineteenth century. John Murray’s ubiquitous series Handbooks for Travellers in Northern Italy (1842-60) is analysed to set John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice (1851-53) and Charles Dickens’s Pictures of Italy (1846) in context. A textual and generic dialogue between Murray, Ruskin, and Dickens is traced, showing how each writer used Venice as a site through which to imagine and re-imagine the conditions of the domestic perception of a foreign place. In different ways, Dickens and Ruskin react to the cultural authority held by the Murray guidebooks. Domestic perception of a foreign place is regulated by texts that engaged with it. Murray’s guidebooks imagined Venice for the Victorian armchair or actual tourist. Ruskin and Dickens then re-imagined it in opposition to Murray and, in doing so, offered their own way of seeing, writing, and knowing other cultures.

Keywords: Venice, Dickens, Ruskin, John Murray, imagination, perception, genre, tourist, gaze, travel, writing, Victorian, guidebooks, domestic, foreign, nationhood


Stephanie B. Guy (The University of Cambridge)

Bodies, Myth and Music: How Contemporary Indigenous Musicians are Contesting a Mythologized Australian Nationalism

This article focuses on two Australian myths: terra nullius and the ‘noble savage’. These myths have their nexus with the absence and presence (respectively) of Indigenous beings. This article argues that these myths formed the foundation of colonial nationhood, and that their repercussions are reverberating within post-colonial imaginings of Indigenous Australians today. The myth of terra nullius, empty land, enabled the construction of a nation at the expense of the Indigenous ‘other’. Furthermore, the ways in which colonisers repressed Indigenous subjectivities was to essentialise them as ‘noble savages’; a figure who is relegated into mysticism and obscurity, consolidated into a “melancholic anthropological footnote” (La Nauze 1959) of Australia’s colonial triumph. Grounded in this understanding, this article will consider the ways in which these myths are being broken down by dynamic, engaging and distinctly visible Aboriginalities through the case study of contemporary Indigenous musicians. Contemporary Indigenous musicians occupy mainstream stages and screens with diverse, meaningful, accessible and modern Aboriginal identities. These didactic and exigent bodies are revoking the myth that Australia was vacant prior to 1770, and that its First Peoples are incapable of being modern. As such, this essay explores the deconstruction of terra nullius and the ‘noble savage’, as a result of Indigenous presence within contemporary public realms. Keywords: Aboriginalities, terra nullius, ‘noble savage’, Australian nationhood

Keywords: Aboriginalities, terra nullius, ‘noble savage’, Australian nationhood


Samuel Parker (Cardiff University)

‘Unwanted invaders’: The representation of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and Australian print media

In recent months asylum seekers have once again become front page news in many British newspapers with headlines including: ‘It’s good but I don’t like the food says asylum seeker: 130 migrants move into top hotel’ (Daily Express, 25th September 2014). While this may reflect a broader increase in stories about immigration making headline news it is also reminiscent of press coverage of forced migrants at the start of the 21st century. This article explores the way in which asylum seekers and refugees have been discursively constructed by the print media in both the UK and Australia between 2001 and 2010. 40 articles were selected for analysis following a discursive psychological approach (Potter and Wetherell, 1987). It was found that the print media, in both the UK and Australia, draw on a number of interpretative repertoires when constructing accounts of refugees and asylum seekers. The principal repertoire found to be used was that of the ‘unwanted invader’, which was achieved through the use of metaphors of criminals and water. However, this repertoire was found to be used differently in both media; in Australia the focus was on border protection and keeping ‘these’ people out of the country, whereas in the UK the repertoire was used predominantly to convince the reader that refugees and asylum seekers needed to be removed from the country. Consideration is also given to how these accounts changed over the period and what the implications may be now that the topic has once again returned to the front pages of our daily newspapers.

Keywords: asylum, media, newspapers, discursive psychology


Stephen Richard Trotter (University of Glasgow)

Breaking the law of Jante

The article intends to critically examine the concept of Janteloven (the law of Jante), a literary construct from Aksel Sandemose’s A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (1997[1933]). Janteloven is, anecdotally and with little critical appraisal, assumed to explain the egalitarian nature of the Scandinavian nations. Janteloven, despite common belief in Scandinavia, has its equivalent elsewhere (Newby (2009: 308) for example compares it to the Scottish expression of “ah kent his faither”). Espen Arnakke, the narrator in Sandemose’s book, formulates Janteloven and repeatedly emphasises its existence outside the narrow confines of his native Danish village. The article therefore seeks to critically examine Janteloven and how it has gained traction in the Norwegian nation-building project. The notion of Janteloven is so pervasive in Norway, that it merits analysis: what is janteloven; how is it apparent in Norwegian society; why is it assumed to be so pervasive; is it really as pervasive as assumed; how is it reproduced? The article argues, in part, that Janteloven is a form of structural censorship and entails the exertion of symbolic power in the endeavour to present the image of a cohesive nation-state. Alongside theories of nationalism, this article employs analytical tools developed by Pierre Bourdieu in examining the reproduction of Janteloven. The article includes a close examination of the Norwegian nation-building project, and explores how Janteloven is inconsistently applied in an effort to reproduce a mould for Norwegians to follow, whilst simultaneously exempting aspects of Norwegian society from the alleged universal law of Jante. A final reflection of the article is whether Janteloven is still, or can remain, relevant in an increasingly globalised society.

Keywords: Janteloven, nation-building, nationalism, Norway, national myths, cultural 


Thomas Spray (DurhamUniversity)

Northern Antiquities and Nationalism

From the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century and beyond, northern Europe saw the blossoming of a far-reaching artistic and political movement: Romantic Nationalism. Combined with new concepts of Germanic identity this led to a fundamental re-consideration of northern Europe’s settlement myths and cultural heritage. Meanwhile the ever-expanding field of Germanic philology, with its notion of language as the defining characteristic of race, promoted the appropriation of myths from Old Norse across Scandinavia, Germany, and Britain.

In England the general public’s first introduction to these northern tales was in 1770 in the form of Bishop Percy’s Northern Antiquities: a heavily-edited translation from the French of Paul Henri Mallet. Sharing an education with Danish royalty, Mallet was introduced to such works as Snorri Sturlusson’s Prose Edda. Percy’s highly-popular work was republished and re-edited by I. A. Blackwell in 1847, simultaneously whetting the public’s appetite for more northern folklore and distancing them from the source material via editorial opinion.

Both Blackwell and Percy make it clear in their prefaces that the primary vision for their material is as nationalist history. ‘Pure blood’, the ‘noble savage’, and ‘genetic reinvigoration’: these are the concerns of the editors. This interaction with Snorri’s Edda for nationalist purposes demonstrates the methods by which traditional oral myths and tales become part of a divisive national image. This article will explore how these initial translators used their phenomenally influential position as gatekeepers of a previously little-known body of literature and myth. At the same time, this article will identify some of the key ways in which these early appropriations have affected our interaction with Old Norse literature in its modern editions. Is the shadow of Romantic Nationalism still controlling our engagement with Old Norse myth?

Keywords: Blackwell, nationalism, Norse mythology, Northern Antiquities, Percy, Prose Edda, Snorri Sturlusson