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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Please Hire Me!: An open letter to Barrie Osborne, Warner Brothers and Leonardo DiCaprio from a Viking specialist

The video of Leonardo DiCaprio's speech to the UN popped up in my facebook feed this week. I watched, and listened to the message and found what DiCaprio was saying very compelling. If you haven't seen the speech you can find it here:

Because of the importance of the message, I am embarrassed to say that my biggest takeaway from the speech was Leonardo DiCaprio's hair style.

Because, to me, what this means is that the rumours about a Viking movie, possibly a trilogy, possibly about the life of Harald Hardrada, are true.

No one should be, or is really, more excited about this than me. But the part selfish, part dreamer portion of me says 'oh no, you are about three years too early.'

I am currently in my third year of the PhD, so it is comps year. It feels like I am reading literally everything. Everything everything. But at the same time, I have tailored my reading to fit my chosen dissertation topic: characterizations of Harald Hardrada.

Some might say it is risky to publicize a topic before it is written. I feel okay about it because, really, there isn't that much written about him outside of the realm of literature (not in the traditional history sense, where we like, as a society, to write biographies of 'great men,' a trap I hope to avoid, but also a gap I hope to fill). So if we are both, or all three of us working on it, I doubt we are going to come to the same conclusions anyway. If you were struggling to find a topic, you're welcome.

Of course, I wasn't really worried about maybe a few of us working on this until news of the possible movie came out.

In the imaginary world, where one dreams big anyway, they make this movie in three years time, I am already established as the expert, so the moviemakers have my book, and maybe ask me to consult (consulting on an historical film has been a dream of mine since I decided to pursue History/English as a career) and people buy my book (the pipedream of every academic) because it is relevant to the movie.

In the slightly more realistic world, though one still has to complete the PhD in good time. and it still has a bit of the fantastic too it (dream big in the real world too), the movie has come out by the time I can write my book. I have sort of lost out on the chance to consult on something I will have the most expertise in, as the Viking phase sort of dies down, and my book is kind of white noise in all the books that have been published in wake of the movie. This sounds like whining, because I mean, I would still try and find something to consult on someday, and I have a book published in this dream so I can't really complain.

But I can't deny my gut reaction to Leonardo DiCaprio's hair: I want to be involved in this project sooo bad.

Hire me as your pocket researcher. Don't hire me, just let me sit in a chair. Doctoral reading examiners being willing, all I am going to be doing next year is researching Harald Hardrada. As I find out things or come to new conclusions about texts, I could pass you little notes. I already have a degree in Norse and Viking Studies and one in Public History. I just wrote a paper about postcolonialism in American-made Viking movies. I have one paper under review which talks about a nineteenth century poet who wrote a poem called "The Death of Harald Hardrada." I just gave a talk about the Norwegian Invasion of 1066 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. I spent four months giving tours of the L'Anse aux Meadows National Park site and dressing in Viking garb. I know what I am talking about! I am working on a book about the main character. Pleeeeaaassseeee.

My interest in Hardrada developed very naturally from a desire not to have to choose. I wanted to be an historian, but I couldn't choose between Canadian History, Medieval History or Maritime History. So I picked Vikings so I wouldn't have to. I did my MA thesis on oral storytellers, and their characterization, but I had to be specific to create the best argument. I read Harald Hardrada's saga in Morkinskinna and it had the most examples and was one of the most compelling stories. I love this character/historical figure, because through him you study the range and power of the Scandinavians in the eleventh century, starting in one of Norway's most crucial battles, through to the presence of Scandinavians in the Varangian Guard in Constantinople, to the Rus in Russia, through to dynastic struggles and court life in northern courts, to the defining year of English history (1066). In addition, he is a poet and a patron of poets, and a sailor and a warrior and a king. I mean, what is not to be interested in. Plus, Gwynn Jones called him 'the last viking' which has stuck with him into literature. There couldn't be a more romantic figure.

So that is my rant, and my plea, and my secret hope that is a little embarrassing because of its grand scale, but the way I feel nonetheless. I am going to send these vibes out into the universe (and maybe tweet them to anyone I think might read them), and I am going to keep working on my dissertation. And keeping looking at Leonardo DiCaprio pictures to figure out what they are filming based on hair style.

Now back to the books.