Studia Litterarum (Sep 2016)

Icelandic Literature in the U.S.: On the Question of National Borders in Literature

  • Andrey V. Korovin

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1, no. 1-2
pp. 192 – 210


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Literature has been central to Icelandic culture in the history of the nation. Icelandic immigrants in the U.S. created an original literature in their native tongue that, on the one hand, continued a rich Icelandic literary tradition going back to sagas and Edda texts, on the other hand, adopted New World themes and images and was influenced by literary forms inherent in American culture. American-Icelandic Literature exists as an independent cultural phenomenon and belongs to both cultures: American and Icelandic. Icelandic-American authors did not lose their national identity when writing in English as they preserved national narrative and poetic forms yet at the same time were part of American literature. National borders in the world literature are mainly defined by geographic and linguistic factors. The concept of national literature very often draws on the concept of national identity, literature being one of the most important components of cultural self-identification. Usually, immigrant literature intended for a specific immigrant community, is interesting only to this community and is not seen as part of national culture in the home country. But in the case of Icelandic-American literature, it is possible to say that this literary tradition did not break its connections with Iceland, and regardless of the fact that Icelandic-American authors were writing in English, their works became part of Icelandic cultural heritage