Norse Romanticism: Themes in British Literature, 1760–1830 is a collection of texts that illustrate how the ancient North was re-created for contemporary national, political and literary purposes. The anthology features canonical authors (such as Thomas Gray, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Walter Scott, and Ann Radcliffe). Standard editions of these authors’ works generally lack the contextual framework and necessary commentary that explain the way in which they repurpose Norse material. There are also more unusual selections of lesser known writers, whose texts have not previously been available to modern readers. The range of material presented in the edition has the scope and breadth to allow for new research into the Norse-inflected writing during the period.
The anthology shows how a number of writers utilized the Norse tradition to address issues of political and cultural concern, as well as find new aesthetic models for their poetry. Importantly, the interest in Norse literature and mythology came at a time when the need to recover ancient literary heritage came under tremendous pressure. Before the discovery of Beowulf (and the realization of its importance), the Norse past was taken up in an attempt to substitute for a missing Anglo-Saxon tradition. In England, the need for Anglo-Saxon heroic verse was given an increased sense of urgency as Celtic antiquaries began to publish heroic traditions associated with Wales, Ireland and not least Ossian’s Scotland. The Norse material also appealed to romantic-era writers for its ideals of Liberty, while the dark Norse imagination was exploited as a vehicle for the creation of Gothic terror. Therefore, the anthology contains texts that will be of relevance to researchers and students pursuing a number of different projects.
The introduction, headnotes and extensive annotations place the texts in relation to their original Norse sources. The extensive editorial matter also discusses the perception of the Norse Middle Ages, as these were shaped by sometimes fanciful antiquarian and romanticizing discourses in the period. The electronic edition is a unique resource that makes it easy to compare and search for the characters, themes and ideas that were central to the Norse revival in English letters.