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English Poetry and Old Norse MythA History$
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Heather O'Donoghue

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562183

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562183.001.0001

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Paganism and Christianism

Paganism and Christianism

The Victorians and Their Successors

(p.148) 4 Paganism and Christianism
English Poetry and Old Norse Myth

Heather O’Donoghue

Oxford University Press

Chapter Four examines the way in which Old Norse myth came to be interpreted as evidence of an ancient religious system, or might be allegorized to provide evidence of “Old Thought”. The seeds of later racist ideologies can sometimes be seen in such work, and the outlines of Old Norse poetry itself tended to be obscured in synthetic narrative accounts. But poets such as Matthew Arnold used Old Norse mythic narratives—especially the story of the god Baldr—to draw parallels with Christianity, and Baldr was the dominant focus of other Victorian poets working with Old Norse themes. Links between Old Norse myth and Christianity continued to be explored in twentieth-century modernism—poets such as David Jones, Hugh MacDiarmid and C. S. Lewis, and with the gradual adoption of Old Norse literature as a university subject, poets such as W. H. Auden based work on Old Norse sources.

Keywords:   Old Norse myth, poetry, Victorian poetry, Baldr, Matthew Arnold, modernism, David Jones, Hugh MacDiarmid, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden

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