Auld Rock meets Nordic Noir: A Danish gaze on Shetlandic Scandinavian-ness

Hanne Tange, Gunhild Agger

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Travellers arriving through Sumburgh Airport are welcomed by multilingual sign, instructing them to ‘drive on the left’ in four languages. One is Norwegian, which seems odd when Norwegians are generally known as avid English learners. Yet Norwegian could be displayed for another reason, namely as a symbolic marker of Shetland’s link to Scandinavia. The Nordic connection has been used by artists to claim the existence of a distinctively Shetlandic tradition. In this paper we examine Shetland’s invented North through the lens by our indigenous knowledge of Danish language and heritage, asking to what extent contemporary Scandinavians are convinced by Shetlandic Nordic-ness.
The paper is structured into three parts. First, we take a look at signs in the landscape, reflecting on the meaning of symbols that are taken out of their original Scandinavian context and placed in Shetland. An example is the motto of the Shetland Islands Council, Med logum skal land byggja, which Danes know as the prologue to the Jutland Law of 1241. Next we examine how space and language come together to create a sense of Nordic difference in Robert Alan Jamieson’s Da Happie Laand (2010). Finally, we look at Ann Cleaves’ crime novels and the TV adaptation of them in Shetland (BBC 1, 2013). In the Red Bones episode, protagonist Perez tells his daughter that from Shetland, on a clear day, you can spot Norway to the east and Iceland to the west. This indicates the Nordic horizon of the series – transferred from the novels. Shetlandic culture is represented, for instance, in the form of traditions such as the festival Up Helly Aa, whereas an unmistakable influence from the ‘Nordic Noir’ TV drama tradition is seen in the slow pace, sparse dialogue, and use of lighting.
Publikationsdato30 jun. 2018
StatusUdgivet - 30 jun. 2018
BegivenhedCreative Archipelagoes: Explorations of Islands in Scottish literature and culture - Sabhal Mor Ostaig
Varighed: 29 jun. 20181 jul. 2018


KonferenceCreative Archipelagoes
LokationSabhal Mor Ostaig

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