1st Edition

Emotional Experience and Microhistory A Life Story of a Destitute Pauper Poet in the 19th Century

By Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon Copyright 2020
    174 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    174 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Emotional Experience and Microhistory explores the life and death of Magnús Hj. Magnússon through his diary, poetry and other writing, showing how best to use the methods of microhistory to address complicated historical situations.

    The book deals with the many faces of microhistory and applies it’s methodology to the life of the Icelandic destitute pauper poet Magnús Hj. Magnússon (1873–1916). Having left his foster home at the age of 19 in 1892, he lived a peripatetic existence in an unstinting struggle with poor health, together with a ceaseless quest for a space to pursue writing and scholarship in accord with his dreams. He produced and accumulated a huge quantity of sources (autobiography, diary, poems, reflections) which are termed by the author as ‘egodocuments’. The book demonstrates how these egodocuments can be applied systematically, revealing unexpected perspectives on his life and demonstrating how integration of diverse sources can open up new perspectives on complex and difficult subjects. In so doing, the author offers an understanding both of how Magnússon’s story has been told, and how it can give insight into such matters as gender relations and sexual life, and the history of emotions.

    Highlighting how the historiographical development of modern scholarship has shaped scholars’ ideas about egodocuments and microhistory around the world, the book is of great use and interest to scholars of microhistory, social and cultural modern history, literary theory, anthropology and ethnology.

    List of Illustrations


    Part I The Normal exceptions and Stories from the People

    1. Creating a Story

    2. Real People and Fictional Ones

    3. The Individual and Microhistory

    4. The Normal Exception

    5. The Book

    Part II Emotional Communities in the Life and Death of Magnús Hj. Magnússon

    1. In Hostile Waters

    2. A Harsh Life on the Farm of Hestur

    3. Courtship

    4. Matters of Life and Death

    5. Matthildur’s Death and the Poets

    6. Saved by the Salvation Army?

    7. Rape: Wrongful Ruling?

    8. The High Court

    9. Two Contrasting Arguments – New Sources

    10. Days of Hope and Fear

    11. Eternal Life

    Part III In the Company of Few

    1. A Pointillist Portrait of a Person

    2. The Conceptual Framework of Sex and Sexuality

    3. Microhistory, Material Culture and Death

    4. Fiction and Microhistory




    Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon is Professor of Cultural History and chair of the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Iceland. He is also chair of the Center for Microhistorical Research. His latest books in English are What is Microhistory? Theory and Practice (2013) co-authored with István M. Szijártó, and Minor Knowledge and Microhistory (2017), co-authored with Davíð Ólafsson. He is the founder and an editor of the book series "The Anthology of Icelandic Popular Culture" (Sýnisbók íslenskrar alþýðumenningar) and also co-editor with István M. Szijártó of the series, Microhistories, published by Routledge.

    ‘This discussion by Sigurður Gylfi about Magnús Hj. Magnússon is great fun. As I have said, I like the methodology and the material is such that readers all over the world must be impressed, feel sorry for Magnús, admire him and despise him at the same time. I find Sigurður Gylfi's theory that Magnús created a character, a version of himself, that over time has begun to influence his perception, views on the world and how he organized his life, particularly interesting. Thus, the diaries are not only a source of Magnús agency, but an act in itself, a testimony that he was a doer in his own life, "a man who responds to his fate", but this is the unanimous conclusion of Sigurður Gylfi.’ - Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir, Saga LIX:1 (2021).