Narratives of Greenland: People, Place, Perceptions

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Robert Jensen-Rix


University of Copenhagen


DKK 771,223




Monograph Fellowships


Narratives of Greenland: People, Place, Perceptions It is the objective of the Semper Ardens monograph to study a number of texts from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century that show how Greenland played a significant role in the European/Western imaginary. A central argument is that recurrent and thematically persistent narratives and metaphors - concerning landscapes and people - can be identified, and that certain models of representation circulated across language borders by means of the transmissions of texts. To deepen our analytical perspectives, a variety of genres (literary works, religious writing, travel accounts, school books etc.) will be examined. Representations of both real and imitated Inuit voices and how they challenged colonial discourses will also be studied.


2021 marks the 300th anniversary of the Dano-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede's first landing on Greenland's coast. With this commemoration in sight, there is need for a new and thorough examination of the discourses that have shaped perceptions of Greenland. The monograph will be an important intervention in the public and academic debates that are expected in connection with the commemoration year. Much excellent work has been done on the encounter with Greenland and its people from a Danish perspective, but there is a wider network of representations in Europe and America that warrants attention. We lack a fundamental understanding of how images and narratives of Greenland were negotiated through the transmissions of key texts and the dissemination of ideas across language borders.


I will complete the analyses of the material and prepare my existing drafts for publication. During the first few months of the grant period, I will undertake further research of primary sources in Polarbiblioteket (Copenhagen), the Danish Royal Library, and the British Library. I will establish the typology to be used throughout the chapters, in connection with which I will build a database of texts that can be mined to reveal patterns of representations. It is the plan to publish the monograph with Routledge to promote the book internationally.A major focus of the research strategy is public engagement. Thus, in conjunction with the tercentenary of Hans Egede's landing in Greenland (1721), I will summarise the findings for Weekendavisen and other Danish media.

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