Sheep, Volcanoes, and International Conflict: Mapping the Twentieth-Century Icelandic Consciousness Through Art and Fiction




Brandsma, Elliott Josiah

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The early 1900s marked a time of burgeoning nationalism and social upheaval in Iceland, which, consequently, brought about drastic changes in the nation’s art and literature. After centuries of oppression under the Danish monarchy, the Icelandic people began fiercely advocating for their independence, until the country officially achieved its sovereignty in 1944. From this turbulent period of political reform emerged several prolific novelists, including Halldór Laxness and Gunnar Gunnarsson, whose compelling depictions of twentieth-century Icelandic cultural life still enjoy a wide readership in Iceland today. Iceland’s severance from Denmark’s repressive rule also signaled the formation of the nation’s now thriving visual art scene, which has been lauded by contemporary critics and audiences across the world for its fearless experimentalism and playful originality. Beyond the island nation’s desolate shores, however, few scholars have examined or published research about this pivotal point in Iceland’s literary and artistic development. Thus, the purpose of this study is to begin educating people about Iceland’s rich cultural history, to perform an interdisciplinary examination of the twentieth-century Icelandic national consciousness, to analyze how key historical events influenced Iceland’s literary and artistic output, and to honor and preserve the legacies of several twentieth-century Icelandic authors and artists.



Iceland, literature, Laxness, Halldor, Matthiasdottir, Lousia, Gunnarsson, Gunnar, consciousness, Honors College


Brandsma, E. J. (2012). Sheep, volcanoes, and international conflict: Mapping the twentieth-century Icelandic consciousness through art and fiction (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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