Fjords, Volcanoes, Glaciers, Geysirs—and Medieval Literature: Michael Twomey and Steven Hartman Teach Environmental Humanities in Iceland

08/20/2014

Contributed by Michael Twomey

During the first two weeks of August, Michael Twomey (Dana Professor of Humanities and Arts, English Department) and Steven Hartman (IC class of 1987, now Professor, English Department, Mid-Sweden University) taught in an interdisciplinary, graduate-level course for students of environmental criticism, history, archeology, and anthropology.  

The course, “Environmental Memory and Change in Medieval Iceland,” took place 8/2-8/16 at Storuvellir, on the river Skjálfandafljót in Bárðardalur, in northern Iceland.  Twomey was in residence 8/2-8/7. 

Along with Twomey and Hartman, the faculty included environmental critic Lawrence Buell of Harvard University; environmentalist/naturalist Þorvarður Árnason of the University of Iceland, historian Viðar Hreinsson, editor of the Sagas of the Icelanders; archeologist Adolf Friðriksson, director of the Icelandic Institute of Archeology; environmental historian Árni Daníel Julíusson of the Reykjavík Academy; Icelandic saga specialist Emily Lethbridge of the University of Iceland; medieval archeologists Tom McGovern and Megan Hicks of CUNY; medieval climatologist Astrid Ogilvie of Akureyri University/U Colorado Boulder; and environmental scientist Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir of the Reykjavík Academy. 

Besides participating in daily discussion about readings and lectures in environmental issues concerning medieval Iceland, Twomey lectured on “Ecocriticism: Reading the Environment in Medieval Literature”; and, with Viðar Hreinsson and Lawrence Buell, he conducted a panel discussion on Grettir’s Saga, one of the most famous medieval Icelandic sagas.  

Since one of the course’s aims was to study the representation of the natural environment in medieval Icelandic literature and historiography, faculty and students in the course took excursions to locations in Grettir’s Saga, Ljósvetninga saga, Reykdæla Saga and Víga-Glúms Saga, all of which took place in the area around Bárðardalur. 

The twelve students taking the course came from Austria, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, and the USA. 

The course was sponsored by IHOPE (Integrated History and Future of People on Earth):  http://ihopenet.org/home/; Svartárkot Culture/Nature center:  http://scn.akademia.is/about.html; NABO (North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation):  http://www.nabohome.org/; and NIES (Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies):  http://www.miun.se/nies

 

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