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Dr. Haraldur Hreinsson

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • History of the Christian Religion
  • Cultural History of Religion and Secularity in the Nordic Countries
  • Discursive Approaches to Religion
  • Social and Political Significance of Christian Religious Texts

The Secularisation of a Book Nation

The main objective of the research project, “The Secularisation of  a Book Nation” is to explore from a historical perspective the formation of secularity characterising the cultural and social situation in Iceland during the early modern and modern periods. For the study of the multiple secularities of the Western world, Iceland offers itself as an intriguing region, distinguishing itself in significant ways from other parts of North-Western Europe: through distinct developments in the country’s cultural and political history, shaped in significant ways by the country’s colonial past (as part of the Danish kingdom) as well as its geographical location in the North Atlantic ocean. At the same time, because of the country’s political and cultural ties with the European mainland (often but not exclusively through Denmark), it shares important features with other secularites of North-Western Europe and should be viewed as part of the broader development taking place in that part of the world. While the research project intends to provide a thorough account of the formation of secularity in Iceland from a cultural historical point of view, it wishes to specifically accentuate two features which have not received enough attention in that context: a) the differentiation between religion and art via the example of literature, i.e. through the demarcation of a particular sphere of Icelandic culture exempt from the influence of religion, beginning in the Middle Ages, which produced the saga literature, b) the ambiguous role of romantic nationalism for the formation of secularity in Iceland since the early 19th century.

The project has a far-reaching diachronic scope, extending back to the Protestant reformation (in the mid-16th century) and in some instances even further back to the Middle Ages, granted the prominence of the medieval period for some of the questions addressed. The research is carried out within what can be termed a discursive research perspective. In addition to generally mapping the most significant social and cultural developments shaping the form of secularity found in Iceland, it directs its attention specifically to the discursive structures and strategies through which the religious sphere came to be separated from other spheres of society. Thus, the research is based on an analysis of discursive themes as they appear in the source material, which consists primarily of writings of the country’s cultural elite, i.e. the Icelandic intelligentsia during each period under discussion



PhD (Dr. phil) in History, University of Münster (Germany)


Research Fellow and Doctoral Student, Cluster of Excellence: Religion and Politics, University of Münster (Germany)


Teaching Licence, History and Religion, School of Education, University of Iceland, Reykjavík (Iceland)


Sessional Teacher, Faculty of Theology of Religious Studies, University of Iceland


Master Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge (USA)


Candidatus theologiae, Faculty of Theology of Religious Studies, University of Iceland


B. A. Faculty of Theology of Religious Studies, University of Iceland.

Relevant Publications

  • Hreinsson, Haraldur. Force of Words: A Critical Examination of Iceland’s Earliest Ecclesiastical Discourse. Doctoral Dissertation (forthcoming).
  • Hreinsson, Haraldur. “The Office of the Bishop”. With Sigurjón Árni Eyjólfsson. [In Icelandic] Studia Theologica Islandica 44 (2017): 21-32.
  • Hreinsson, Haraldur. “Islande.” In La Bible dans les Littératures du Monde, A-I. Ed. by Sylvie Parizet, 1188-1192. Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2016.
  • Hreinsson, Haraldur. “Laxness, Halldór Kiljan (1902-1998).” In La Bible dans les Littératures du Monde, J-Z. Ed. by Sylvie Parizet, 1429-1420. Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2016.
  • Hreinsson, Haraldur. “Pétursson, Hallgrímur (1614-1674).” In La Bible dans les Littératures du Monde, J-Z. Ed. by Sylvie Parizet, 1767-1768. Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2016.
  • Hreinsson, Haraldur. “Conflicts in the Book of Revelation: On Sigurbjörn Einarsson’s Exegesis of the Book of Revelation” [In Icelandic]. Studia Theologica Islandica 35 (2012): pp. 35-58.