Seaver, Kirsten A. 1934–

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Seaver, Kirsten A. 1934–


Born August 23, 1934, in Glemmen, Norway; naturalized U.S. citizen; daughter of Olaf Emil (a factory owner) and Signy Monrad (a homemaker) Andresen; married Paul S. Seaver (a professor of history), June 11, 1956; children: Hannah Signy, David Olaf. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Bryn Mawr College, B.A., 1956. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, hiking, music.


Home—Palo Alto, CA. E-mail—[email protected]


Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, secretary at university library and consultant on Scandinavian collections, 1956-60; Stanford University, instructor in Norwegian, 1975-82; researcher, writer, and translator, 1982—. San Jose State University, Bruce E. Gelsinger Memorial Lecturer, 1998; guest lecturer at other schools. Meta Incognita Project, member of archival research task force, 1994-97. Participant in the production of the television program "Before Columbus," broadcast as an episode of Time Watch, British Broadcasting Corp., 1997, and another television program about the "Vinland Map," broadcast as an episode of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe, Discovery Channel, 1996; Granite Productions documentary, "Viking Map or Million Dollar Hoax?"; BOOKSTV program, Maps, Myths, and Men; guest on radio programs in Norway, Sweden, and England.


International Map Collectors' Society, Royal Geographical Society (fellow), World History Association, Nordmannsforbundet.


Translation award, American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1994, for Love's Comedy.


(Translator and author of introduction) Camilla Collett, The District Governor's Daughters, Norvik Press (Norwich, England), 1992.

The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America ca. A.D. 1000-1500 (nonfiction), Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1996.

(With Alexandra Andreevna Voronina Yourieff; and author of historical commentary) Alexandra Voronine: Quislings unge hustru (memoir), Gyldendal Norsk Forlag (Oslo, Norway), 1999, English translation by Kirsten A. Seaver published as In Quisling's Shadow: The Memoirs of Vidkun Quisling's First Wife, Alexandra, Hoover Institution Press (Stanford, CA), 2007.

Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map (nonfiction), Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2004.


Gudrids saga, Gyldendal Norsk Forlag (Oslo, Norway), 1994.

Landet som falt av jorden (title means "The Country That Fell off the Earth"), Gyldendal Norsk Forlag (Oslo, Norway), 1996.

Øst I havet ligger Vesterøy (title means "East in the Sea Lies the Western Isle;" sequel to Landet som falt av jorden), Gyldendal Norsk Forlag (Oslo, Norway), 1998.

Mørke skyer over Solhellinga (title means "Dark Clouds over Solhellinga"), Juritzen Forlag (Oslo, Norway), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Images and Icons of the New World: Essays on American Cartography, edited by Karen Severud Cook, British Library Publications (London, England), 1994; Meta Incognita: A Discourse of Discovery, Volume II, edited by Thomas H.B. Symons, Canadian Museum of Civilization (Hull, Quebec), 1999; Voyages and Exploration in the North Atlantic from the Middle Ages to the XVIIth Century, edited by Anna Agnarsdóttir, University of Iceland Press (Reykjavík, Iceland), 2000; Vinland Revisited: The Norse World at the Turn of the First Millennium, edited by S.M. Lewis-Simpson, Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's, Newfoundland), 2003; The Oxford Companion to Exploration, Oxford University Press (Oxford, UK), 2007; and Women and Slavery, Volume 1, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2007. Translator of Love's Comedy, a verse translation of a work by Henrik Ibsen, performed in a staged reading in New York City, 1996. Contributor to periodicals, including Viking Heritage, Mercator's World, Imago Mundi, International Portland Review, Scandinavian Review, Historisk Tidsskrift, Journal of World History, and Map Collector.


Kirsten A. Seaver reviews the literature on Greenland's ancient Norse colony in her book The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America ca. A.D. 1000-1500. The disappearance of the colony has long been a mystery to scholars, with many explanations suggested. Seaver presents known informa- tion about the existence of the colony, and reconstructs what life must have been like there. She analyzes previous research on the fate of the colony and proposes her own explanations. "Seaver's volume is meant to be provocative, not conclusive. She wrote it not as a definitive explanation of Norse Greenland's demise but as a challenge to pursue evidence that will eventually offer a satisfactory explanation," stated Gail Fondahl in Geographical Review. Birgitta Wallace, writing for Journal of Interdisciplinary History, questioned some of Seaver's ideas but said that "the book, although a bit wordy, is well written and lively, and the documentation in the footnotes is handled in an exemplary way. Clearly, a lot of work has gone into its writing."

Seaver worked with Alexandra Vorinine Yourieff and Yourieff's husband, W. George Yourieff, to produce the English translation of Yourieff's memoir, published as In Quisling's Shadow: The Memoirs of Vidkun Quisling's First Wife, Alexandra. Alexandra was married to Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian politician who was put into power by the Germans after the Nazis took control of Norway. When the war ended, Quisling was convicted of treason and put to death. Seaver again put her translation skills to work with The District Governor's Daughters, a novel by Camilla Collett that was first published in Norwegian. It is often referred to as the first feminist Norwegian novel. Seaver's translation was deemed "sensitive" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Seaver's translation was also praised by Sherrill Harbison in Scandinavian Studies, who called it "heartwarmingly faithful to the spirit of the original."

In Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map, Seaver discusses the Vinland map—a map that is said to date from about 1440, and which some believe shows that medieval Norsemen undertook considerable exploration of the North American coasts. The map gained considerable attention in 1965, when a book called The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation was published. Despite the publicity, many scholars remained doubtful of its authenticity. Seaver's book sets out to prove that the Vinland Map is a fraud, made in the modern age by a Jesuit, Fr. Josef Fisher, only a few years before Hitler's invasion of Austria. According to Peter Schledermann, a reviewer for Arctic: "Page by page, often with what are probably necessary redundancies, the objective reader will most likely become convinced that Seaver has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the Vinland map is a modern fake…. Through its sheer scope of inquiry and the breadth of the author's knowledge, the book is a major contribution to historic scholarship."

Seaver once told CA: "I was able to return to my academic interests in the history and cartography of early North Atlantic exploration when my children no longer required constant supervision. At about the same time, the realization that I was now equally comfortable in English and Norwegian uncorked the writer in me for the first time since I left my native Norway at the age of nineteen. After several years of research at Stanford University and at the British Library in London, where I still spend every summer, I was so disturbed by the informational divide between Anglophone and Nordic scholars in my field that I began writing The Frozen Echo. During that process, several characters who loomed large in my research began to have conversations in my head and to acquire distinctive physical features. Soon my first historical novel was also taking shape, backed by the same initial chronological charting which I always use when writing history.

"Writing fiction in Norwegian while sticking to English for my scholarly production suits me well. Also, having to imagine my characters confronting the challenges of their daily lives in long-ago settings has given me new insights as a historian. Few thrills can compare with the realization that one is able to read between the lines of old documents, and few things stir the novelist's imagination as thoroughly as a voice ringing out pure and clear from words written down many centuries ago."



Antiquity, June 1, 1996, Anthony Sinclair, review of The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America ca. A.D. 1000-1500, p. 454.

Arctic, March 1, 2005, Peter Schledermann, review of Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map, p. 84.

Business Wire, May 15, 2007, review of In Quisling's Shadow: The Memoirs of Vidkun Quisling's First Wife, Alexandra.

Canadian Journal of History, September 22, 2006, Jon Vidar, review of Maps, Myths, and Men, p. 339.

English Historical Review, September 1, 1999, E. Christiansen, review of The Frozen Echo, p. 963.

Geographical Review, July 1, 1997, Gail Fondahl, review of The Frozen Echo, p. 442.

Historian, March 22, 2006, Lee Sather, review of Maps, Myths, and Men, p. 202.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, January 1, 1998, Birgitta Wallace, review of The Frozen Echo, p. 432.

Library Journal, August 1, 2004, Edward K. Werner, review of Maps, Myths, and Men, p. 95.

Publishers Weekly, July 20, 1992, review of The District Governor's Daughters, p. 243; July 5, 2004, review of Maps, Myths, and Men, p. 49.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2007, review of In Quisling's Shadow.

Scandinavian Studies, June 22, 1993, Sherrill Harbison, review of The District Governor's Daughters, p. 447.

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Seaver, Kirsten A. 1934–

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