Friday, June 10, 2005

National Romanticism, Lillehammer-Voss

June 7
Lillehammer to Voss

One needs only a window to be captivated while traveling from Lillehammer — located on Norway’s longest lake — to Voss, with snow-capped mountains top lit by the sun and reflected in glass-clear water.

But Study Travel is about more than the sights. It’s about learning in context. Where better, then, for Margaret O’Leary to present a seminar on Norwegian National Romanticism as we rode through the very landscape that movement celebrated.

Norway has a strong streak of nationalism, fueled by centuries of rule by other nations: Denmark, Sweden, Germany. Throughout the 1800’s, Norwegians focused on defining themselves as Norwegian. This led to the Norwegian National Romanticism, which portrays nature as pure and untainted. The culture of the remote rural countryside is considered unspoiled. Paintings depict enormous natural landscapes with small people: clean, healthy and wearing bunads. It’s hardly a realistic picture: bunads are for special occasions, and many rural people were hungry and poor.

National Romantic composers drew inspiration from folk music, especially for voice and violin. Rosemaling became popular.

Asbjørnson and Moe, inspired by the Brothers Grimm, collected folk tales previously passed from generation to generation. They maintained the tales while standardizing the language.

Danish had been the language of power and education. Two approaches emerged in response to the strong desire for a Norwegian language. Bokmål, which we study at St. Olaf, was developed by “Norwegianizing” Danish. Linguist Ivar Åsen collected samples of dialect and developed Nynorsk (literally new Norwegian), which 15% of school children today use as their first language. Both Bokmål and Nynorsk are official languages. Norwegians learn to write both, but most speak regional dialects.

In any language or period, the sources of inspiration — whether of art or awe — are justifiably legendary in Norway.