Building the North with Words

Geographies of Scientific Knowledge in European Philologies 1850–1950
Funded by FRIAS and USIAS, 2013-2015

Projekt leaders : Joachim Grage (Freiburg), Thomas Mohnike (Strasbourg)
Participant : Michael Rießler (Freiburg)

Kimon Mouzakis (student assistent in Freiburg)
Laura Muller-Thoma (student assistent in Strasbourg)
Maëlle Partouche (student assistent in Strasbourg)

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The project analyzes the use of the languages, cultures and literatures of Scandinavia in France, Germany and Scandinavia in three developing branches of academic knowledge – comparative philology, literary history and Sami studies – between 1850 and 1950. In these fields, academics depicted the North often either as the home of liberty, the last wilderness, a refugium of melancholy or birthplace of an industrious Germanic warrior culture, that opposed to Southern superficialness and laziness. These imaginative geographies of the North were evidently depending on political contexts and local needs and were not the same in Freiburg, Strasbourg, Copenhagen or Paris. The project proposes to analyze thus 1) the changing and conflicting versions of imaginative geographies that the actors of the field evoked by using Scandinavian literatures and cultures and 2) how these seemingly delocalized scientific models depended on ever different (political, didactic, esthetic, ideological, formal…) local needs and practices – on venues, regions and cultural circulation, to speak with Livingstone. The project proposes thus the first distinctly transnational dynamic geography of scientific knowledge of the North as not only a history of a scientific discourse, but also as a result of doing and performing scientific work.


Joachim Grage: The imagination of Nordic literature and the geographies of literary history

Thomas Mohnike: Warriors for liberty and the last wild people in Europe: the North in comparative philology

Michael Rießler: Indigeneity in the North: changing imaginative geographies of Sámi-Scandinavian contacts


2014 International workshop at USIAS, 5-6th juin 2014. Program here.

2015 International conference at FRIAS, 11-13 juin 2015 : Geographies of Knowledge and Imagination. Philological Research on Northern Europe 1800-1950. Program here.

For an article on the project in FRIAS-News 10 (2014), click here.


Grage, Joachim, and Thomas Mohnike, eds. 2017a. Geographies of Knowledge and Imagination in 19th Century Philological Research on Northern Europe. 1 edition. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

———. 2017b. “Geographies of the North in 19th Century European Comparative Philology: An Introduction.” In Geographies of Knowledge and Imagination in 19th Century Philological Research on Northern Europe, edited by Joachim Grage and Thomas Mohnike, 1 edition, 1–13. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Mohnike, Thomas. 2010. “Eine Im Raum Verankerte Wissenschaft? Aspekte Einer Geschichte Der ‘Abteilung Germanenkunde Und Skandinavistik’ Der Reichsuniversität Strassburg.” Nordeuropaforum, no. 1–2:63–85.

———. 2012. “Géographies Du Savoir Historique : Paul-Henri Mallet Entre Rêves Gothiques, Germaniques et Celtiques.” In Figures Du Nord. Scandinavie, Groenland et Sibérie. Perceptions et Représentations Des Espaces Septentrionaux Du Moyen Âge Au XVIIIe Siècle, edited by Eric Schnakenbourg, 215–26. Rennes.

———. 2013a. “Frédéric-Guillaume/Friedrich-Wilhelm Bergmann und die Geburt der Skandinavistik in Frankreich aus dem Geiste der vergleichenden Philologie.” In Kulturelle Dreiecksbeziehungen: Aspekte der Kulturvermittlung zwischen Frankreich, Deutschland und Dänemark in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts, edited by Karin Hoff, Udo Schöning, and Per Øhrgaard, 277–97. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

———. 2013b. “Straßburg Und Die Wissenschaft Vom Norden. Transnationale Spurensammlung in Den Marginalien Einer Bibliothek.” In L’espace Rhénan, Pôle de Savoirs, edited by Cathrine Maurer and Astrid Starck-Adler, 397–414. Strasbourg: Presses universitaires de Strasbourg.

———. 2017. “Frédéric-Guillaume, or Friedrich Wilhelm, Bergmann and the Birth of Scandinavian Studies in France Out of the Spirit of Comparative Philology.” In Geographies of Knowledge and Imagination in 19th Century Philological Research on Northern Europe, edited by Joachim Grage and Thomas Mohnike, 1 edition, 139–58. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

———. /A paraître/. Géographies du Germain. Les études nordiques à Strasbourg (1840-1945). Fondation Presses universitaires de Strasbourg. Strasbourg.