“How are Vikings mythologised in medievalist media?”

Ayres, David (2020) “How are Vikings mythologised in medievalist media?”. MRes thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (MRes)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

This thesis presents research in field of medievalism, looking at the way the Middle Ages are used in media and by audiences, specifically addressing the representation of Vikings. My focus is on their depiction in film and TV but I also explore the Victorians’ reconstruction of the Vikings. Informed by this research, I conduct textual analysis on a selection of media featuring Vikings. I regard the more recent productions to be the most relevant to my study, representing the most up-to-date examples of Viking imagery. However, I also pay due attention to older works and argue that these older films have intertextually influenced subsequent images of Vikings, as well as ideas of what constitutes a Viking, or ‘Viking-ness’, for audiences.

With a focus on audience reception, my study branches into notions of authenticity over historical accuracy. That is, what audiences believe to be representative of the medieval, of Vikings, et cetera, regardless of veracity. I discuss how media operate in relation to what the audience’s expectations of a historical subject are and how media imagery figures into their consciousness and imagination. I also consider collective memory in relation to the popular imagination of the past. This leads to an exploration of the nature of public history and how fictional historical media can contribute to an understanding of the past while not conforming to, but not necessarily significantly diverging from, the actual historical ‘truth’.

Concerning the representation of Vikings, I focus on their integral dualism of barbarian and hero. I further explore this idea by looking at the dichotomy of the gothic and the romantic within medievalism. This argument postulates that the medieval is constructed between the two polar opposites of the grotesque ‘Dark Ages’ or a romanticised ‘Golden Age’. However, an image of the medieval is often somewhere along this spectrum rather than being entirely grotesque or romantic. Likewise, my research leads me to argue that it is no different for the Vikings – they are not exclusively barbaric (gothic), nor exclusively heroic (romanticised). I also consider how Vikings may be construed as ‘mythic heroes’ as an answer to the seeming disparity between being barbaric and heroic. To explore this, I utilise theories on myth – specifically those of Jung and Campbell, as these deal directly with the concept of heroism in mythography.

Addressing the sociocultural aspect of this topic, I consider nationalism, with a focus on British national identity and heritage. I explore how heroic myths and popular memories of the Vikings are utilised by contemporary British audiences. I argue that Vikings may function as an aspect of heritage in Britain and as a part of British national identity, again referring back to the Victorian ideas of Vikings. These parallel research areas shift the focus of my study away from questions of accuracy and into the realm of myth and mythical capital. With this I am able to explore the memory of the Vikings in media and how the mythological construction of Vikings as heroic pertains to modern British audiences

Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:44215
Deposited On:04 Mar 2021 12:44

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