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Imagining Iceland: Narratives of Nature and History in the North Atlantic

Karen Oslund
The British Journal for the History of Science
Vol. 35, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 313-334
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4028126
Page Count: 22
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Imagining Iceland: Narratives of Nature and History in the North Atlantic
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Abstract

This article presents the case of remarkable transformation of the Icelandic landscape in 1783 and 1784 -- when a series of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and natural disasters radically altered the country -- as a way of elucidating how the cultural meaning of place and different versions of 'nature' develop. It explores some of the contested interpretations of Icelandic nature that followed this crisis, focusing on the narratives of British geologists, Danish officials and Icelandic nationalists. The different, although sometimes overlapping and complementary, meanings of Icelandic nature developed by these different groups show how science, art and politics are closely intertwined, and how artists' interpretations and the activities of scientists can perform the same work on landscape, transforming it in different, yet functionally equivalent, ways.

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