By Janae Reinhardt, Guest Writer
The Bjug A. Harstad Memorial Lecture commemorated those who foraged the Arctic to expose its actual beauty and kindled a heartfelt dialogue about Nordic nature.
Students, alumni and community members gathered together to learn about Nordic polar literature April 4 in the Scandinavian Cultural Center.
Henning Howlid Waerp (seen left), a professor of Nordic Literature at The University of Tromsø, gave a powerpoint presentation covering the various opinions of Arctic pastoral literature spanning from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century.
Literature depicting the Arctic region is presented in two ways: inhospitable and menacing or, as Waerp suggested, bright, healthy, and pastoral or idyll.
“The terms pastoral and idyll are interchangeable,” Waerp said. He said the term idyll does not derive from the term idyllic, but refers to peaceful scenery.
Waerp credited various Nordic nature writers for shedding a true light onto the ethereal beauty and health advantages inherent to the cold and uninhabited Arctic region.
Some of these included female trapper Wanny Wolste, Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen and even Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
“I thought it was pretty interesting,” senior Lauren Letsinger said. “He definitely had a lot of diversity in what he was talking about in terms of authors and I definitely didn’t think of [the Arctic] being inhabited or even explored that much other than the major explorations that are present in popular culture.”
Toward the end of his presentation, Waerp spoke about what sparked his own interest in Arctic literature. He said he regarded the progressive southern movement of the Arctic border and Nansen’s books as motivation to study this unique aspect of Nordic literature.
“Pastoral celebrates a bountiful present,” Waerp said in reference to sustainability expert Greg Garrard.
The idea of a region that is perceived in two contrasting ways peaked the interest of many attendants. Some of the attendants used their floor time to speak about their own experiences in the Arctic
One audience member agreed with Waerp on the freshness and allure specific to the Arctic and never once considered the land to be inhospitable or dark. She recounted how clean and inviting the Arctic land was upon her first visit and how it continued to “wow” her upon each visit back. ◼︎