Friday, 17 February 2017

War, Myths, and Fairy Tales - new publication

I am pleased to have recently published another book chapter.  My chapter examines a book which I really admire, A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok: The End of the Gods.  My chapter forms part of a collection of essays, entitled War, Myths, and Fairy Tales, edited by Sara Buttsworth and Maartje Abbenhuis. The book is published by Palgrave.


The subject matter of the book is described on the publisher's website in the following words. The volume examines "the relationships between warfare, myths, and fairy tales, and explores the connections and contradictions between the narratives of war and magic that dominate the ways in which people live and have lived, survived, considered and described their world."

My chapter is entitled '"Life was a State in Which a War Was On": A.S. Byatt's Portrayal of War and Norse Mythology in Ragnarok: The End of the Gods.  My chapter investigates A.S. Byatt's portrayal of the Second World War through the prism of Norse myth.  


I was especially interested in the way in which Norse myth informed Byatt's representations of inner landscapes to contrast with her depiction of suburban settings later on in the novel. Being Danish, Norse myth in many ways feels so familiar as to be second-nature to me. Yet, in reading Byatt's novel and its retelling on Norse myth, I found myself fascinated once again by these compelling stories and characters. A few years ago, I used to teach Norse myth on a first-year module, and it was always really interesting to see what students made of this material.




It was fascinating to research and to write about the representation of war in literature.  As a contemporary literature specialist, I was glad to have the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which British literature has depicted this subject matter over time.  From Graham Greene's The End of the Affair to Sarah Waters' The Nightwatch, the Second World War has often been imagined through the eyes of adult characters in fiction.  In contrast, I found that Byatt's novel creates a compelling narrative of war experienced by a child, and that Ragnarok: The End of the Gods gave a compelling account of the role and function myth and fairy tales may play in facilitating the imaginary and emotional process of narrating war.

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