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Building the North with Words

Geographies of Knowledge in European Philologies 1850–1950

The project, being carried out in cooperation with the University of Strasbourg between 10/2013 and 9/2015, examines three areas of philological activities concerning the North: Comparative Philology, Literary History and Saami Studies. Project leaders are Joachim Grage (Freiburg) and Thomas Mohnike (Strasbourg). Funding is provided by FRIAS and USIAS and goes towards USIAS and FRIAS fellowships for project members, salaries for student assistants, as well as material support and travel expenditure.


Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Skandinavisches Seminar
Platz der Universität 3
D-79098 Freiburg

Tel. +49(0)761/203-3366

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The project analyzes the use of the languages, cultures and literatures of Scandinavia in France, Germany and Scandinavia in three developing branches of academic knowledge – comparative philology, literary history and Saami studies – between 1850 and 1950. In these fields, academics often depicted the North either as the home of liberty, the final wilderness, a refuge of melancholy or birthplace of an industrious Germanic warrior culture, as opposed to Southern superficialness and laziness. These imaginative geographies of the North evidently depended on political contexts and local needs and were not the same in Freiburg, Strasbourg, Copenhagen or Paris.

The project will analyze the changing and conflicting versions of imaginative geographies that the actors of the field evoked by producing Scandinavian literatures and cultures and how these seemingly delocalized scholarly models depended on consistently differing (political, didactic, esthetic, ideological, formal, etc.) local needs and practices – on venues, regions and cultural circulation.

The project is thus the first distinctly transnational study of the dynamic geography of knowledge about the North as not only a history of research discourse, but also as a result of performing scholarly work.


  • Joachim Grage:
    • The imagination of Nordic literature and the geographies of literary history
  • Thomas Mohnike:
    • Warriors for liberty and the last wild people in Europe: the North in comparative philology
  • Michael Rießler:
    • Indigeneity in the North: changing imaginative geographies of Saami-Scandinavian contacts


Upcoming: June 11–13, 2015

  • International conference "Geographies of Knowledge and Imagination. Philological Research on Northern Europe 1800–1950" at FRIAS

June 5–6, 2014

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