Gauti Kristmannsson

Mutations in Art. The New Memes Created by the Poems of Ossian

This paper looks at a cultural phenomenon of the eighteenth century which indeed ushered in a paradigm shift in Western culture. The Poems of Ossian were not only all the rage of the latter part of the eighteenth century, but a revolutionary bulk of poems which changed the outlook of many poets and scholars, as to how poetry should be and where it originated. The list of names is long, but people such as Wordsworth, Goethe, Herder would never have written the way they did, were it not for the Poems of Ossian. Not only that, but the influence on other arts was massive, and it is the objective here to look, however briefly, at these transformations of a translation, oft condemned as forgery, pseudotranslation, which on the other hand had the finest minds and artists of the best part of a century in its grip.