Christopher Abram (ucl), ‘Web Eddas: Technicolor Transformations of Nordic Myth’

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Abstracts for proposed papers for VIN III
Alphabetical order by surname.
Christopher Abram (UCL), ‘Web Eddas: Technicolor Transformations of Nordic Myth’
In this paper, I introduce to the audience three web-comics rooted firmly in the myths of medieval Scandinavia that refract Norse mythology through radically different sub-cultural lenses: Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki , a kaleidoscopic gender-bending narrative informed by the visual tropes of Japanese Manga and hentai; Brathalla , in which the Norse gods are represented as a (slightly zany) bunch of teenagers; and the emo-ish Modern Edda . Each of these texts provides a different example of the current pop-cultural resonances of medieval Nordic culture and each, so I would wish to argue, participates in an on-going tradition of ‘eddic’ composition which finds parallels in the work of Snorri Sturluson and the compiler of the Codex Regius of Eddic Poetry. By relating them both to their ultimate source texts and to the conventions of their present sub-cultural milieus, I hope to explain why the mythology of the Ancient North retains its fascination for creative artists in new media, and how a reading of this type of text can help to situate Norse myth as a cultural signifier in the twenty-first century.
Martin Arnold (University of Hull), How to attack a monastery: Vikings in the National Curriculum, Key Stage 2
Every year approximately 350,000 British children (age 7-11) are measured according to Key Stage 2 SATs. The writing-assessed, as opposed examination-assessed, compulsory History Key Element, that includes a study of the Vikings, is one of six prescribed Study Units. The current Programme of Study asserts:

“Pupils should be taught ... The history of the British Isles from 55 B.C to the early eleventh century, and the ways in which British society was shaped by different peoples. Pupils should be given opportunities to study, in greater depth, ONE of the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, or the Vikings.”

In all likelihood, over 100,000 children are investigating the Vikings in any given year; thus making this provision the single biggest opinion former of the Vikings in the UK. Since the introduction of the Education Reform Act of 1988, leading via numerous subsequent reviews to the standardised National Curriculum of 2000, three considerations (old and new) have come to underlie the teaching of History, generally: national identity, cultural diversity and citizenship – considerations which do not always sit comfortably together. This paper will examine how teachers’ resources reflect these considerations in respect of the Vikings. Use will be made of approved online resources, recommended teachers’ lesson plans, field research into teachers’ strategies at ‘the chalk face’ and their pupils’ responses to the Vikings. The overarching question will be: How is the study of the Vikings ‘in a changing world [made] relevant, motivating and appropriate to pupils’ (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2001)?

Andrew K. G. Jones (Head of Education, York Archaeological Trust), ‘JORVIK & DIG: Presenting the Vikings in York’
JORVIK Viking Centre has presented Viking Age culture to over 15 million visitors since it opened in 1984. While the main displays focus is archaeological evidence from16-22 Coppergate, a large site in central York where aspects of domestic life, international trade and craft manufacture were discovered, from its outset more populist images of the Vikings have also been used to market the centre and attract visitors. The development of the History National Curriculum helped keep the Viking Age in the public consciousness, particularly in northern England and Scotland. Schools visiting JORVIK also stimulated the development of the Archaeological Resource Centre, recently expanded and rebranded as DIG following a one million pound investment largely from the Rediscover Programme funded by the Millennium Commission. This paper will provide an introduction to the issues confronting staff and trustees of York Archaeological Trust balancing the needs of the worlds of academia and commerce while remaining faithful to the charitable objective of ‘educating the public in archaeology’.
Grégory Cattaneo, ‘Presenting the Normanist debate today: the case of Poland’

  1. The place of Poland in the Normanist/anti-Normanist debate

Problematic: What is the Normanist/ anti-Normanist debate? How the Polish state is/was concerned with it? What are the political implications of this debate?

  1. Short summary of the debate: Normanists (presented in 7 points by an anti-Normanist: Leo Klein) / Anti-Normanists (presented in 5 points by a Normanist: Olmejan Pritsak)

  2. Political implications of the debate (Identity / Soviet Union / independence of non-Soviet countries): the example of Poland (cf. Michael Westrate)

  1. Looking for Scandinavian ethnicity during the Viking Age in Poland

Problematic: How can we define Norse ethnicity in Eastern Europe? What are the implications of Norse ethnicity in Poland?

  1. The Viking Age in Slavic countries: Norse ethnicity in Eastern Europe (cf. Wladyslaw Duczko / Florin Curta / Sian Jones)

  2. Poland during the Viking Age: the Piast dynasty (cf. Andrzej Buko / Paul M. Barford)

  1. Viking Age Studies in Poland today: the end of the debate?

Problematic: How is the Viking Age presented in Polish museums? According to theses presentations of Vikings can we put an end to the debate?

  1. A new perception of Viking Age Studies in Poland since the fall of the Soviet Union? (cf. Przemyslaw Urbanczyk / Wladyslaw Duczko / Paul M. Barford)

  2. The presentation of Viking Age according to Polish museums: Poznan, Warsaw, Lublin, Gdansk, Wroklaw.

Lesley Coote (University of Hull), ‘As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a - Viking?…’
In Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Henry Hill explains why he admired and wanted to emulate the Paulies and Big Tonys of this world. Since the early days of film, Hollywood directors have enjoyed playing with the audience’s admiration and disgust for the gangster. The Hollywood Viking arouses fear, admiration and disgust in a similar way…this paper examines the idea of the Viking as Hollywood stereotype, utilising the similarities and differences between the Viking and the gangster - how far is the same chemistry at work? Can this help us to understand contemporary responses to early medieval Scandinavian literature and culture, and how we, as scholars, interact with them?
Ruarigh Dale (University of Nottingham), ‘Lunatic nudists’ – seeing the berserkr clearly’
Berserkir are fascinating characters, about whom there has been vigorous debate regarding their nature and existence. There is clearly something exciting about them that captures the imagination. In the historical note to his novel The Pale Horseman Bernard Cornwell states that “there is no evidence that lunatic nudists made regular appearances on the battlefield”. He is referring to the view that berserkir fought naked, a view that still maintains some currency among the general populace. It is instructive to view what the general public understands by the term and also what scholars understand by it. Academic study of berserkir should inform public opinion and develop it, although there appears to be a large lag between the research being undertaken and its acceptance into or influence upon popular culture. However, the popular culture influences on academic perceptions are also potentially significant. This paper examines the link between popular understanding and perception of berserkir and the range of academic opinion about them. It will present examples of berserkir, primarily on film and in novels but also to a lesser extent from games, the internet, music and other media, and will compare those examples to academic studies of berserkir to show the influence that each has on the other.
Chris Halewood & Kevin Hannam (University of Sunderland), ‘European Viking Themed Festivals: Authenticity and identity’
Viking themed festivals are now widespread through-out Europe and are a popular expression of heritage identity. The Anglo-American stereotypical representation of Viking heritage is of sea-faring, sexist and blood thirsty men raping and pillaging. In contrast to this image, in Scandinavia the dominant image of Vikings in popular culture finds fewer references to war and warriors. Here the Viking representation is very much concerned with the people who ‘abroad were known as pirates, but at home lived in a well-ordered society’. European Viking themed festivals have largely attempted to give greater credence to the latter representation. However, it is often the more bloodthirsty image that initially inspires Anglo-American tourists to visit sites. Based upon qualitative research, in this paper we examine the geographical and organisational depth of Viking themed festivals in Europe. We then argue that at Viking themed festivals the past is constructed and idealized by participants as an authentic way of life and that this is used as an expression of social identity.

Tim Pestell (Norfolk Museums Service), ‘A View From Guthrum’s Kingdom: Presenting the Vikings at Norwich Castle’
This paper will focus on the way in which the Vikings have been presented in the new Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. East Anglia is very well known for the quality of its archaeology, and also for the liaison it enjoys with metal-detectorists. Together these have produced an archaeological resource that allows us to contextualise Scandinavian involvement in Norfolk and East Anglia more widely. The challenge of presenting so much new information in accessible ways, within the spatial constraints of an archaeology gallery is more problematic.
I want to outline the ways in which we have approached the story of the Vikings in the region, while trying to retain a focus in the gallery on object-rich displays. The Anglo-Saxon and Viking gallery project was designed from the outset as a publicly-driven exhibition space, and so popular perceptions of the Vikings, and the reality of what we were able, or wanted to deliver as part of the project will be discussed. I will describe the planning process for this, the involvement of various sectors of the public and the displays that resulted.

Matthew Townend (University of York), ‘Vikings in the Lake District: the origins of an origin-legend’
England's Lake District is habitually claimed as part of the Viking diaspora - an area of significant Scandinavian settlement, where distinctive cultural features can be attributed to the consequences of such settlement. The history and inheritance of the Vikings in the Lake District forms part of both academic and popular narratives in the twenty-first century, and can be observed in contemporary guide-books and tourist attractions. Working backwards from some current representations, this paper will address the genesis of the Viking origin-legend for the Lake District. In 1800, nobody believed that Lakeland culture was substantially the product of Scandinavian settlement; by 1900, everybody did. This paper will explore the nineteenth-century basis for present accounts of the Vikings in Lakeland, attending to the work of antiquarians and popularizers such as Robert Ferguson (M.P. for Carlisle), W.G. Collingwood (Ruskin's assistant), and H.D. Rawnsley (co-founder of the National Trust).
Val Turner (Shetland Amenity Trust), Robina Barton (Shetland Amenity Trust), Julie Bond (University of Bradford), ‘“What Did the Vikings Ever Do For Us?” Viking Unst – A Case Study from Shetland’
Shetland’s identity is deeply interwoven with that of the Vikings. For about 500 years Shetland belonged to Norway/Denmark. The dialect and place names show strong Norse links and the case has been put for udal law still pertaining in the St Ninian’s Isle treasure case of the 1960s. Each January 900 men participate in the Victorian Viking festival of Up Helly Aa and every Shetland primary school takes the opportunity to study the Vikings in that term. Fact and fantasy can get terribly mixed up. Unst, the most northerly island in Britain, has the greatest density of rural Viking settlement sites anywhere. The Viking Unst project is in the process of excavating three longhouse sites and interpreting them to the public using reconstruction, living history and a replica Gokstad ship. We are also working with schools to develop new resources which tie into the new Curriculum for Excellence. We hope to promote a deeper, more accurate, understanding of what the Vikings did for us!
Gareth Williams (British Museum), ‘“I never realised that the Vikings had babies": Re-enactment, research and public engagement'


Historical re-enactment is an increasingly common medium for the general public to engage with the past. This often takes place within the framework of formal education, or through museum outreach programmes. However, the wide range of events and venues at which re-enactors appear means that they engage with diverse audiences, including many people who would not normally visit museums or watching historical documentaries. Most re-enactors are not academic specialists in the subject, although many have relevant practical skills. This paper will discuss the role of re-enactors in shaping public conceptions of the Viking Age, and also the relationship between re-enactment, experimental archaeology and museum reconstructions, and the ways in which academic research informs re-enactment and vice versa.

Roger White (University of Birmingham), Stephen Harding (University of Nottingham), Martin Cooper (Liverpool Conservation Centre, World Museum Liverpool)
The small group of ring-headed crosses at Neston on the Wirral have long been known for their unusual iconography in that, in constrast to most of this north-western group, they are strong in figural detail. What has been little realised is that another cross that had been built into the belfry window in the middle ages and was removed under faculty in 1985, revealed a most unusual collection of figural carving on the two main faces. One other fragment from the group shows figures on both sides too and it was argued in the original publication of the whole group in 1987 that these fragments belonged together. Iconographic and historical parallels were sought for the group but there the matter rested. Now the two cross fragments have been laser-scanned with a view to creating first a virtual cross that will test the hypotheical reconstruction and, if this is successful, a laser-cut replica that can be painted and erected outside the church. This paper discuss the process of reconstruction, the iconography of the group and what it tells us about the Viking community on the Wirral in the 10th century, and the potential the project offers for engaging contemporary audiences in Viking culture.

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