Volym 123, 2002
Dag Hedman, Some Misapprehensions Concerning Pehr Henrik Ling.
The essay deals with "the Father of Swedish Gymnastics", Pehr Henrik Ling (1776–1839), who was also a prolific author of epics, plays and poems. Its aim is to rectify certain misconceptions about his life and letters, partly originating in Ling's own time, and thus representing a tradition of almost 200 years.
There is a consensus, that Ling was an Herculean giant of enormous strength. Since physical strength plays an important role in his epics Gylfe (three versions: 1810, 1812 and 1814), Asarne (1816–1833), and Tirfing eller Dödssvärdet (Tirfing or the Sword of Death; written in 1820, printed in 1836), and Ling was the founder of Swedish Gymnastics, having written several theoretical works on gymnastics, health and fitness, it is easy to imagine how this myth has arisen. Contemporaneous sources show that Ling was small, thin and ailing all his life. The preeminence of athletic heroes must be explained in another fashion, i. e. in the light of the "moral-medical philosophy", according to which physical and moral strength are connected, health and virtue being eachother's companions as well as illness and vice.
Analogous to the myth of Ling's gigantic physical appearance, one finds exaggerated images of the size of his literary output. Generally one speaks of enormous quantities, with the bulky epics as the peak. Since the appreciation of Ling has been low amongst later generations of literary historians, the sheer mass of his literary production has been used as another sign of his weakness as an author. Speaking in quantitative terms, however, Ling comes in as number 3 in his generation of Swedish authors of belles lettres (2 655 pages) after Frans Michael Franzén (1772–1847; 2 782 pages) and Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793–1866; exceeding 10 700 pages). Since neither Franzén nor Almqvist have been criticised for their proficiency, it seems irrelevant to chastise Ling for the same reason.
Actually, it is peculiar that critics have not pursued the idea of Ling as an author of 'masses of literature' and thought of him in terms of an author of 'mass literature'. His æuvre is so clearly oriented towards the techniques and motifs of popular literature. Without doubt, his amalgamation of high and low, so typical for the Romantic movement, was too strong for Swedish critics of the time, being more Classical-oriented in their taste, and thus shunning Ling's juicy mixture of metaphysical speculations, eroticism, and violence.
The rumor of Ling being a gothomaniac is also refuted in the essay. Only slightly more than half of his plays deal with Gothic (i. e. Old Norse) themes (six of ten plays). In all of them – as well as in the epic Asarne – the victory of Christianity over the Old Norse religion is treated. In his preface to Eddornas SinnebildsLära (The Emblems of the Eddas; 1819–1820) Ling expressly wrote that one ought to use the Old Norse myths with caution.
The handbooks have generally denied Ling and his Old Norse themes any influence on Swedish art in the 19th century. Contrary to this established view, the present essay shows that he indeed was influential, not only during his life-time, but well through the century.
Ola Wiman. Gold, Silver and Iron – Myth and Metaphor in Clas Livijns Novel Spader Dame [Oueen of Spades].
Clas Livijns novel Spader Dame. En berättelse i Brev, funne på Danviken (1824), is one of few novels from Sweden's romantic era that have survived (although in undercurrents) as an inspiration to authors in the modern and postmodern ages. The first person narrator is a student who ends up in a lunatic asylum where he finally dies, leaving a pack of letters behind. These letters make up the novel in which we can follow the student's desperate way, from his subjective perspective. The voice of the mad student expresses itself through a heavy use of bold metaphors which, at least on the surface, indicates that he really is insane. This essay is an attempt to point out a metaphoric pattern which goes back to Hesiodos' Work and Days and Ovidius' Methamorphosis, and which is vital for an understanding of the novel. With the mimesis/semiosis-distinction and some other concepts taken from Michael Riffaterre's semiotic theory I try to show that the nonsense which might seem like madness on the mimetic level, turns out to open up an alternative kind of rationality on the semiotic level by means of intertextuality. Livijn's metaphoric play with intertexts is in some respects similar to the mythic method of James Joyce and T. S. Eliot, and a discussion of such similarities (and differences) is closing this essay.
Birgitta Holm, Who died at Leopold's Hotel?
A split subject is signalled already by the twofold naming of Victoria Benedictsson/Ernst Ahlgren. More than most writers she herself took her pen-name seriously (ernst), and in literary history the naming of her has fluctuated more than in most cases. What effect has this split had on her writing? And what part did it play in her death, the brutal suicide at Leopold's Hotel? In Pengar, her first novel, the split manifests itself most clearly in a conflict between the protagonist Selma, in different stages of self-consciousness, and the narrative perspective, an instance close to Selma but not identical with her. The result is a tension between an intense narcissistic pleasure in the text and an equally intense assurance of (or dream of) self-forgetfulness. As seen by the names, the split in the subject is also a split in sexual affiliation. This split finds a curious and uncomfortable outlet in her cooperation with Axel Lundegård, as exemplified by her writing a passage for him about a woman's hand. It culminates in her confrontation/relation with Georg Brandes, ending in the death at Leopold's Hotel. The person dying there is a person driven to death by a deep split combined with a demand, from without and within, for unity and a unified sexual identity.
Catrine Brödje, Women's death by drowning. A literary motif at the turn of the century 1900
The picture of a dead woman was a common motif around the previous turn of the century. In the four literary texts that I am studying in this essay, a woman drowns. The texts are Georg Heym's poem "Die Tote im Wasser", Bertolt Brecht's ballad "Vom ertrunkenen Mädchen", Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening and Anna Lenah Elgström's short story "Det sjungande barnet".
It is strange that women's death by drowning is a common motif in these four different texts published between 1899 and 1927 in Sweden, Germany and the United States. It may be a coincidence, but the common motif is there and therefore calls for a comparison.
Brecht's, Heym's, Chopin's and Elgström's texts are read in the light of the changed gender order, which was a result of the discourse on modernity in the early 1900s, and thereby the different gendered views on the motif women's death by drowning are made visible. The essay will explore the possibility of letting female and male writers establish a dialogue, where both the female and the male voices are heard instead of stopping at the fact that the motif of women's death by drowning becomes solely a male monologue.
Ola Nordenfors, The Vision of Love in the Decadence. Hjalmar Söderberg and Richard Wagner.
This paper deals with the vision of love in decadent literature in the early twentieth century. This often light and ethereal vision contrasts strongly to the pessimistic and cynical view of life which is generally associated with decadent literature, and the vision is repeatedly related to experiences of music. The discussion mainly concentrates on Hjalmar Söderberg's Doktor Glas, but comparisons are also made to other texts by Söderberg, August Strindberg and Verner von Heidenstam. Richard Wagner's music and ideas of the human pursuit of love are here of great interest for the understanding of Hjalmar Söderberg's works.
Lars Wolf, An aspect on Ludvig Nordström's short stories about Tomas Lack
This essay deals with the twenty-four short stories by Ludvig Nordström (1882–1942) featuring his alter ego Tomas Lack. If read in internal chronological order, the stories stand out as a bildungsroman about a child's road to adulthood. Through this "novel" the author seems intent on answering the question "how have I become who I am?"
A dominant theme in the stories is Tomas freeing himself from his father. The primary aim of this essay is to analyse how this happens. Here I make clear the fundamental importance of aptitude and upbringing to adult life. The analysis is extended to include a discussion of the concept of autobiographical writing. I also describe in brief the Nordström family and the society of the time, as well as the role of men in that society.
Ingrid Maier, Tatjana Martjenko, Russian Nobel Prize Candidates in the Archives of the Swedish Academy.
This study tries to answer the question why the first Nobel prize in literature was awarded to Ivan Bunin (1933), a writer whose oeuvre now is almost totally unknown outside Russia, while some of the more internationally well-known Russian writers such as Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorki were overlooked. The main source for our analysis are the records kept in the archives of the Swedish Academy, i. e. the letters of nomination, the reports, often extensive, delivered to the Academy by the Nobel Committee's literary experts (at the time: Alfred Jensen and, later, Anton Karlgren), and the annual reports of the Nobel Committee, which contain a short assessment of each of the nominees. Personal letters, both published and unpublished, were made use of as a complementary source.
Our analysis of archive materials leads us to conclude that candidates such as Tolstoy and Gorki were rejected more for political reasons than for the quality of their literary output. It is shown that, at least as far as those works not directly accessible to the members of the Swedish Academy were concerned, the experts' assessments played a decisive role in the "making of a Nobel Prize winner". During the 1930's it was generally felt that finally a Russian writer should receive the award, and, since no Soviet writers had been nominated during these years, the first Russian Nobel prize winner could only be an emigré writer.
Our study shows that Bunin became a Nobel Prize winner, first and foremost, thanks to the brilliant, talented and very impressive essays written by the literary expert Anton Karlgren. After hesitating to recommend Bunin in 1923, Karlgren eventually decided to opt for him unreservedly in his later reports, at the expense of other candidates. This made it almost impossible for the Academy to give the prize to Gorki, for instance. We try to show that the 1933 Nobel prize was awarded to Bunin, "the last Russian prose master of the great tradition", mainly as a result of Karlgren's personal preference.
Christian Lenemark. The Phenomenon Carina Rydberg on the field and as text: Den högsta kasten.
Den högsta kasten [The Highest Caste], Carina Rydberg's fifth book, caused a lot of debate when it was published in 1997. Some were upset by the way Rydberg used people's real names and that she openly claimed the book's content to be autobiographical. Others saw it as a heart-rending, honest story about what it means to be a woman writer in a man's world. The intention with this essay is partly to throw light on Carina Rydberg's conscious attempt to influence the literary field (i. e. readers, literary critics, and debaters) to read Den högsta kasten as an autobiographical piece of work. It is argued that Rydberg's marketing campaign of the book as autobiographical can be compared to what Philippe Lejeune has called "the autobiographical pact". The majority of the literary field's actors, however, the essay shows, is to a large degree reluctant to accept this pact with Rydberg. Instead of reading Den högsta kasten solely as an autobiography they tend to vacillate between different reading strategies, not really sure of what label would be appropriate to describe the book. Consequently, the analysis of the reviews and the debate concerning Den högsta kasten do not only show how the literary field works, but also prove how problematic the term autobiography is in the postmodern aesthetics of today.
The second part of the essay consists of a close reading of Den högsta kasten as text. Den högsta kasten is itself revealed to play with different reading strategies. Through its use of shifting narrative perspectives Den högsta kasten lures the reader to read the book as a novel. On another level the book indicates that it ought to be read more as an autobiography, which strengthens Rydberg's assertion in media that Den högsta kasten should be read as if it was a direct transcription of her life. Finally, it is argued that Den högsta kasten, on account of its oscillation between different generic conventions and its use of postmodernist devices as metafiction; repeated short-circuits of the ontological structure: the breakdown of the boundaries between the fictional world and the "historical" reality; the illusion of collapsing ontological levels within the fictional world etc., best – for the time being – can be characterized as a "postmodern autobiographynovel".