Women and the Arctic: A Critical Analysis of Women's Writing about the Arctic (1880s-present)
The Northern regions have been the objects of both physical appropriation through explorations and symbolic appropriation in literary texts which sought to translate the unfamiliar into familiar terms. The impulse to search these regions and mine their resources has been durable and persistent, and the wish to narrate that experience for others has been equally strong. Like the Arctic explorations themselves, Arctic literature is heavily dominated by men, in terms of writers as well as protagonists. They have created the prevailing vision of the Arctic as an empty, dangerous region that allows for manifestations of heroic masculinity, competitiveness and frontier experience. This is the image of the Arctic that persists until this day. A central hypothesis of this research project is that whereas men have historically viewed the Arctic as geography, for women it has been more of a landscape and this is clearly reflected both in the language and the imagery of their narratives. For men, the Arctic has typically been about a hardy adventure and about national power. It has been viewed as a virgin territory, a wilderness to be conquered, the antithesis of home and civilization, a battleground for the struggle of man against nature, a space for scientific discovery, for mapping new trade routes, and finding new resources. In early exploration literature by men, the Arctic is portrayed as “utterly desolate”, “void of every element of hopefulness in its surroundings”, as an “arctic waste”. Women's narratives, by contrast, deviate from the 'man against nature' narrative and present another way of perceiving the environment and landscape of the Arctic. While these texts also depict challenges and dangers, their focus is more on how these foster personal growth.