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Making national identity. The construction of Germanic Mythology in 19th century.

Project description

Germanic mythology and national identity

The process of religious, political, cultural and social demythologisation initiated after World War II seems to be at a stalemate, revealing that contradictions relative to the cult of reason and the Dialectic of Enlightenment persist. The renewed mythologisation of the political sphere that has emerged threatens a rational debate. The EU-funded MYTH project will perform the first systematic study on the birth of Germanic mythology in the 19th century. The project envisages demonstrating how German intellectuals created a Germanic mythology system based on elements typical to both Nordic myth and Greco-Roman mythology. This Germanic myth emerged as an alternative model to the classical one to shape nationalistic political and cultural identities.


We are witnessing today a renewed mythologisation of the political sphere: myth has returned to occupy a persuasive and central role in modern political and cultural life, taking on the form of fictional narratives, “false myths” and ideologies, which are dangerously replacing rational debate. The process of demythologization (Entmythologisierung) of religious, political, cultural and social dynamics that began after the Second World War seems to have reached a standstill, revealing the unresolved contradictions inherent to the cult of reason and the Dialectic of Enlightenment. The question of the need for myth in every culture, modern culture not excluded, is still unanswered. Critical awareness of myth and its function as a cultural agent in today’s climate is critical, although the all too obvious demonization of myth should not be supplanted by the facile—and equally mythical—valorization of reason. As Jan Assmann argues, the function of myth in the modern world goes beyond a simple elaboration of the past. Indeed, all mythopoetic activity has immediate productive value and can be characterized as a dominant historical agent. A critical-historical study of the origins and development of the modern concepts of myth and mythology is of capital importance if we are to redefine our categories of thought and understand the pervasive phenomena that have dominated European culture for the last two centuries. My research takes on the first systematic study of mythology by way of a very telling case study: the birth of German Mythology studies. My aim is to show how German intellectuals created a system of Germanic mythology based on materials appropriated from Nordic myth and the model prevalent in European culture at the time: Greco-Roman mythology. This newly established Germanic myth imposed itself as an alternative model to the classical one, providing a new foundation for the construction of nationalistic cultural and political identities.


Net EU contribution
€ 219 312,00
1165 Kobenhavn

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Danmark Hovedstaden Byen København
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 219 312,00