The Desired Darkness of the Ancient: Kalevalaicity, Medievalism, and Cultural Memory in the Books Niemi and Viiden meren kansa

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The article examines two recently published Finnish books, Juha Hurme’s Niemi (2017) and Risto Isomäki’s Viiden meren kansa (2017), in light of discussions on medievalism and cultural memory. It scrutinizes what kinds of connections are made between the medieval period, Finnic Kalevala-metric oral poetry (or ‘kalevalaic’ features such as oral poetry-related themes and images), and the present. The article discusses the use of Kalevala-metric poetry in the medievalist literature as an element through which the image of the Middle Ages as a ‘dark’ period is emphasized. ‘Darkness’ in this case is primarily desired, and only slightly shunned. The idea of desired darkness could be described as a positively charged and affective utilization and admiration of the mythic, ‘pagan,’ ‘grotesque,’ ‘barbaric,’ violent, or supernatural elements often associated with Kalevala-metric poetry, as well as with the medieval period. By scrutinizing the themes of Christianity and ‘pagan’ Finnishness, ‘pagan-ness’ and the crusades, and the desired/othered medieval body, the article asserts that Niemi and Viiden meren kansa utilize Kalevala-metric poetry and ‘kalevalaic’ features in order to replicate the imagined ‘darkness,’ ‘barbarity,’ ‘authenticity,’ and ‘nature-closeness’ of the medieval period. Furthermore, Kalevala-metric poetry and fragmentary knowledge of old folk beliefs function as tools through which the medieval Finnish ‘ordinary people’s’ or ‘folk’s’ thoughts and behaviors are imagined and brought forth.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)24–49
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6122 Literature studies
  • medievalismi
  • Kalevalamittainen runous

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