When Óðinn meets Pompey : Norse and classical elements in English literature at the turn of the 18th and 19th century

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2019, vol. 24, iss. 2, pp. 125-141
Extent
125-141
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type
Article
Language
English
Abstract(s)
According to Snorri Sturluson (died 1241), the Icelandic chieftain, historian, poet, and mythographer, the chief Norse god Óðinn was originally a mighty Oriental chieftain who was forced to abandon Asia under the Roman pressure and later became deified by his people. The typically medieval approach to the myth based on a euhemeristic interpretation and historicization of the pagan deities found a surprisingly keen response among the learned circles of the late 18th century Europe as it enabled the authors to confront the Norse and Classical civilization directly. In this paper, I focus on three English works that deal with this topic, namely two poems by one of the major Romantic poets Robert Southey (The Race of Odin and The Death of Odin, 1795) and the drama Odin (1804) by Anglican priest and poet George Richards. The form of the latter one is of a special interest as it is – as the author himself states – "intended as an imitation of the manner of Æschylus." I will examine the function of the Norse and Classical elements in these works and analyse the bulk of ideas and values that are attributed to the respective cultures. Moreover, the flexibility with which the myth is actualized and used for mediating different political and ideological messages, will be discussed.
Document
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