Volym 127, 2006
Anna Cullhed, "Hur grufligt - - - - O Natur! – – hur ljuft, at vara Mor!" Moderskapets blick i Bengt Lidners operalibretto Medea. ("How dreadful - - - - O Nature! – – how sweet to be a Mother!" The Gaze of Motherhood in Bengt Lidner's Opera Libretto Medea.)
This essay focuses on the Swedish 18th-century poet Bengt Lidner's libretto Medea from the early 1780's. His early manuscript version is seen as a radical experiment with emotional expression, as it turns the classical myth into a drama about motherhood, the family and the problem of sentimental communication. The mother's gaze becomes a focal point for the interpretation, as it stands for an ideal connection between the good mother and her child. The lack of attachment, on the other hand, anticipates disaster: the mother slays her own child.
Lidner's version of the ancient Medea tale is interpreted in connection with the debate on child murder in the late 18th century. The Medea theme was common in 18th-century drama in several European countries, as in Goethe's Faust. The literary representation of the Medea/ child-murder theme shows important differences in comparison to legal sources. Medea as mother and the murderous mothers of the court cases were met with an increasing degree of sympathy in the late 18th century. In contrast, the fictional fathers were condemned to a greater extent, while real fathers of illegitimate children were generally freed by the courts towards the end of the century. The Swedish historian Karin Hassan Jansson suggests that while men of the 17th century were expected to control their passions, especially in their roles as heads of the household, 18th-century men were defined as naturally sexual beings, and thus less responsible for acts such as rape.
Rank and lineage, important drives in the ancient Medea tragedies by Euripides and Seneca, are replaced by the purely emotional ties of the intimate 18th-century family. Jason turns into an inconstant husband, who abandons Medea in favour of a younger bride. Medea, on the other hand, is in Lidner's version fully transformed into a loving and caring mother and wife.
Medea's expressions of conflicting emotions towards her sons and her husband reveal the obstacles to sincere communication. In accordance with Rousseau, in his early essay on the origin of language, Lidner suggests that gestures are to be seen as more authentic compared to conventional language. Jean Starobinski's term "transparency" is crucial to the argument that 18th-century authors are concerned with the issue of communicative means, and the relation between language, gestures, and music. Rousseau developed the genre melodrama to meet his own ideals. The French dramatist Baculard d'Arnaud is of specific importance to the study, since his theoretical discussions of the expression of emotions on stage use Medea as an example.
Lidner depends on several models, such as the already mentioned Baculard d'Arnaud, but also the German author Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter. In contrast to the ancient tragedies, the two sons of Medea and Jason enter the stage as speaking characters in the 18th century. They speak, they act, and they plead in their function as carriers of innocence and virtue.
Lidner's version is exceptional in its emotional address. At one point, Medea calls herself a pelican, and expresses her wish to nourish her children with her own blood. The pelican is an age-old symbol for Christ. Further, she wishes to envelop her children in her open breast, a wish that explores the Christian allegory even further. The side wound of Christ is considered a hiding place for the soul, a metaphorical expression favoured by the Moravian movement. In his search for an adequate emotional expression, Lidner transgresses not only the borders between divine and worldly spheres, but also of gender. The same kind of transgression concerns the members of the family. Medea wants to take revenge on Jason, and she claims to see Jason when she threatens her own sons. One of the sons replies that the dagger will pierce herself, Medea, should she thrust the dagger into his heart.
The issues of transparency, of paternal guilt and of motherhood are related to the historian Lynn Hunt's study The Family Romance of the French Revolution. However, in Lidner's libretto, Medea is absolved of guilt. The intensity of her love, according to Lidner, acquits her, even though she kills her own sons. Paradoxically, the murderous mother is at the same time the ideal mother in this late 18th-century version of the Medea myth.
Otto Fischer, ”Skatter af känslan – tecken af oskulden”. Om sentimentalitet och litterär kommunikation. Exemplet Granbergs Enslighetsälskaren. (”Treasures of emotion – signs of innocence”:On Sentimentality and Literary Communication in Granberg’s Enslighetsälskaren.)
The object of this study is the lesser known novel Enslighetsälskaren (roughly: “The Lover of Solitude”) by P. A. Granberg, published in 1800. The novel is one of few Swedish exponents of sentimental fiction, and presents an abundance of themes well known from European sentimental literature in a concentrated, and perhaps rather undigested, form. As such, it is a rewarding object for the study of sentimental literary communication in the late 18th and early 19th century.
In my study, I try to demonstrate how a thematic of communication, revolving around the poles voice and writing, presence and absence, is closely connected to a complex of themes concerning gender, family, sexual conduct and so forth. Ultimately, it becomes apparent that the main theme of the novel is communication as such, and that the guiding principle of this communication is the semiotics of the fetish. Granberg’s novel is also one of the few examples of epistolary fiction in Sweden during the period, and in this study I try to show how this particular form of fiction interacts with the principal theme of the novel.
Ljubica Miočević, Dynamiska tecken i Clas Livijns Spader Dame. (The Use of Dynamic Signs in Clas Livijn’s Queen of Spades.)
This paper examines the short novel Queen of Spades (1824) by the Swedish romantic writer Clas Livijn in respect to four groups of signs found throughout the work. These involve card games and playing cards, different designations for metals, proper names, and the titles of religious literature.
The theme of battle is paramount in the text. This is already visible in the choice of “Queen of Spades” as the name for the protagonist’s beloved, as this card has been illustrated with a portrait of Pallas Athena, the Goddess of War, since late medieval times. Livijn’s main character, Zachäus Schenander, views himself as a righteous Christian crusading against the moral and aesthetic decay of his contemporaries, who are associated with the forces of evil. The virgin Goddess of War is his muse. Schenander’s pretensions of authority are, however, obscured by irony.
The investigation of the semiotic and rhetorical strategies that Livijn employs emphasizes the dynamic nature of the signs he uses, that is, the differing and often contrary meanings of a given sign are actualized in respect to different points of view. This results in a text in which virtually every sentence undergoes numerous ironic twists. A central example of such sign usage is the “Queen of Spades” herself, who combines Schenander’s positive view with the negative views held by his antagonists. But the negative connotations, which also dominate Pushkin’s Queen of Spades (1834), cannot be vanquished. The poet-hero is defeated by the hostile corrupted world and is driven insane.
Mads Nygaard Folkmann, Visionens mørkerøde frugt. Det imaginære i Stagnelius’ lyrik. (The Dark Red Fruit of Vision. The Imaginary in the Lyrical Poetry of Stagnelius.)
The aim of the article is to read the lyrical poetry of the Swedish Romantic author Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793–1823) in light of the concept of imagination dominant within European Romanticism. While more readily debated in England and Germany at the time, the concept appears in Sweden as well, namely, in the aesthetic journal Phosphoros. While Stagnelius doesn’t participate in the discussions of his time, his work (especially the lyrical poetry) displays an imaginary or phantasmagoric world of its own. To understand the ways and functions of this imaginary, the article argues that it is necessary to examine Stagnelius’ work as an expression of a poetic imagination, that is, how the imaginary world is created as and through poetic devices.
The article states three related concepts in order to analyze the poetic imagination in Stagnelius’s work, namely, internalization, unrealization, and transfiguration. The processes of internalization and unrealization should be understood as altering a relation to meaning through being formulated according to the premises of the speaking subject and placed in a productive distance to reality. The thesis proposes that Stagnelius, through the processes of internalization and unrealization, seeks a transfiguration of the given. In the texts of Stagnelius, this is often expressed through the discourse of religious salvation. Crucial, however, to the article’s understanding of the poetic imagination, is that transfiguration paradoxically becomes ‘real’ by remaining inside the space of the lyrical text. Paradigmatic for this structure of literary inversion is the famous poem “Endymion” (after 1821), in which the dreams of transcendence are ‘only a dream’, but where transcendence at the same time has a reality of its own within the immanent space of dream.
In analyzing a series of poems, the article seeks to broaden the understanding of the concepts internalization, unrealization, and transfiguration. For example, in a reading of “Afsked till Lifvet” (“Parting from Life”, after 1818) it is shown how internalization doesn’t function as a principle of absolute self-knowledge but as the subject’s meeting with its own fractures and boundaries. Further, unrealization is discussed in the figure of ‘Amanda’, which plays a dominant role in a series of poems. Whereas in older scholarship ‘Amanda’ forms the basis for various kinds of biographical speculation, which in itself is problematic as very little is known about Stagnelius’ life, the article reads Amanda as a point of textual construction where meaning takes the form of an unrealizing textual presence based on a process of negation (in sympathy with the Sartrean notion of the imaginary’s capacity of pure negation). Finally, the principle of transfiguration is discussed in light of one of Stagnelius’ few theoretical prose fragments and through a reading of the enigmatic untitled and unfinished poem “Se blomman! På smaragdegrunden” (“See the Flower! On the Emerald Ground”, 1821–23).
In conclusion, the article claims an inversion of transfiguration within the limits of poetic language whereby Stagnelius finds his specificity as a Romantic author: the lyrical text at one and the same time points to an explanatory ground (“förklaringsgrund”) beyond itself, thus suggesting a dimension of transfiguration, and states this kind of ’pointing beyond’ as solely a matter of the density of poetic language. Thus the title of the article: the vision can be retained within the figure of a mysterious dark red fruit, which points to a new way of understanding that is not yet part of given, known reality.
Hanif Sabzevari, Varför tiger du? Expositionen i Strindbergs Den starkare, Paria och Samum. (Why are you Silent? The Exposition in Strindberg’s The Stronger, Paria and Samum.)
The essay deals with three one-act plays that August Strindberg wrote 1889 and analyses the exposition, a structural-temporal element in drama, in relation to the analytic drama and metadrama in Strindberg’s The Stronger, Paria and Samum. A main purpose is to show how Strindberg arranges expository information in the three plays. When the term exposition is used in the study, it refers to all elements in the one-acters that expose pre-scenic events, events that have taken place before the scenic events start when the curtain goes up in the play script. These expository elements are not restricted to the lines, but can be found in sounds, clothes, properties, stage directions, titles and other textual components that are not part of the written words or the dialogue. Expository information is neither restricted to the beginning or the opening of a drama.
The paper starts with a presentation of the Théâtre Libre in Paris and the genre history and development of the one-act drama. The term exposition is then introduced, together with a brief outline of its development through the drama history. It is also suggested that dramatic reading demands that the reader activate his or her own imaginary performance. Every reader of a dramatic text must then apply a semiotic approach, wherein the letters of the script are to be regarded as signs.
The drama analyses show that Strindberg uses the exposition to illustrate a very central theme in his naturalistic plays from 1880’s: the battle of the minds, a psychological duel between two individuals. The exposition is very important in this battle between the characters. The investigation shows how the dramatic personae try to defeat their opponents by ascertaining their history and events in the pre-scenic time.
Exposition is a fundamental element in the analytic drama, in which the expository information is presented successively, why the reader is constantly curious about the development of the scenic events. The analyses also demonstrate, however, how Strindberg complicates the analytical technique by, for instance, letting one of the characters in The Stronger be quiet. The reader is thrown into a confusing situation where the boundaries between truth and lie, reality and fiction, life and theatre become very vague. Thus it is interesting to discuss the three one-acters in relation to metadrama, a drama that has itself as object, a drama about the drama. The metadramatic technique in theatre is often used to evoke the question of the dramatic form and its complicated relation to the reality. Through a brief comparison with Pirandello’s play Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, our analysis shows that Strindberg, in a very elegant and discreet way, raises the same questions about drama and reality as Pirandello illustrates in his play. By doing so, Strindberg dissolves the naturalistic form and creates a metadramatic atmosphere that is much more intense than in Pirandello’s drama.
Ann Lundvall, Gunnar Ekelöfs dikt "Samothrake" och segergudinnan Nike från Samothrake. (Gunnar Ekelöf’s Poem "Samothrace" and the Goddess of Victory Nike from Samothrace.)
Gunnar Ekelöfs poem "Samothrace" in Non serviam (1945) has been well examined by many scholars; Gunnar Tideström (1947), Brita Tigerschiöld (1959), Gunnar Brandell (1966), Ingmar Stenroth (1981), Anders Olsson (1983) and Sverker R Ek (2005), to mention the most important studies.
This study, which is a chapter in a coming thesis about Gunnar Ekelöf and the visual arts, differs from the earlier essays mainly through the interartial perspective. By this concept I mean that there is a connection with one or several forms of art to be found in the poem. I also search into a metapoetical dimension of the poem, where the poem has something to say about itself and about the creative process. Furthermore, I point to the possibility of an approach related to gender and society.
There are several indications of the presence of an interartial dimension in "Samothrace". I investigate the different versions and variants of the poem to find evidence of this. It was published two times before 1945, the first time in 1941 as "Paian", in Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning, and the second time in 1943 as "Samothrace. A democratic antiphon", in Bonniers Litterära Magasin (BLM). Ekelöf made several drafts of "Samothrake"; I follow them along the way in the manuscripts towards the third and final version, analysing changes and differences.
The poet saw the sculpture Nike from Samothrace (200–190 B.C.) at the Louvre 1925, and wrote about the impression it made on him in a letter to his mother. In another letter to a friend, written 1941, Ekelöf confirms that he had the sculpture in mind when he wrote the poem. He also mentions Nike in connection with "Samothrace" in a letter written in 1967.
Some of the questions I ask in my study are: Who is Nike and what is she doing in Gunnar Ekelöf’s poem? What is the function of the work of art in "Samothrace"? I also point to thefact that the scholarly tradition concerning the poem "Samothrace" is dominated by men. This may be why the voice of Nike herself, the goddess of victory, has not been heard in the poem, or has been neglected, until here, and recently in Sverker R. Ek’s essay "The vision of victory in a time of darkness" (in In Dialogue with the Text, 2005).
As previous research shows, "Samothrace" is a very rich poem, containing numerous echoes of other poems in the literature of the Western World. There is a discussion of the poem and previous studies of it in the first part of the analysis. In another section, I compare the metaphorical language of "Samothrace" to that of the poem "Skidbladner" (1812), by the Swedish poet Esaias Tegnér (1782–1846). I also point to some similarities concerning the imagery in a Norwegian folktale found in a collection of folktales from 1934. Ekelöf refers to this book in the aforementioned letter from 1967, and more specifically to an illustration of a ship he calls "Draugen", which, as the poet himself declares in his letter, bears some resemblance to the ship in "Samothrace".
Further, I analyse some important themes and symbols in "Samothrace", such as victory, the Virgin, the ship, the cloak, the fold and the ocean, which are all in some way connected with the famous sculpture of Nike from Samothrace, and with the mythological figure of Nike, whose history I briefly touch upon, referring to Marina Warner’s book Monuments and Maidens. The Allegory of the Female Form (1985).
As a result of this study, I conclude that Gunnar Ekelöf’s poem "Samothrace" is not an ekphrasis, i. e. a poem which describes and interprets a work of art. Instead it interacts with the sculpture, to intensify the experience and the visualization of the poem. This interaction also aims to reveal its own conditions and the creative process. "Samothrace" contains what seems to be an infinite variety of dimensions. In this paper, I have focused on the interartial and the metapoetical dimension. The possibility of an approach related to gender and society was mentioned, but I leave it to further study to shed more light upon this perspective.
Anna Jörngården, Skapande sorg. Nostalgi, modernitet och kön i Kerstin Ekmans Händelser vid vatten och Majgull Axelssons Aprilhäxan. (Creative Mourning. Nostalgia, Modernity and Gender in Kerstin Ekman’s Händelser vid vatten [Blackwater] and Majgull Axelsson’s Aprilhäxan [April Witch].)
In the late twentieth century, nostalgic reactions become more prevalent, reminiscent of the cultural currents of the previous fin de siècle. This essay analyses the novels Händelser vid vatten [Blackwater] (1993) by Kerstin Ekman and Aprilhäxan [April Witch] (1997) by Majgull Axelsson from a perspective of nostalgia, modernity and gender. The purpose is to explore what line the novels take in relation to a nostalgic discourse, characterized by a polarization of gender. As modernity takes hold, woman is increasingly associated with the primitive, which man leaves behind in an age of progress. Woman is perceived as being to a greater extent part of nature and the private, while man is regarded a part of culture and the public. Thus, stability, continuity, and the mystical, which are threatened by changes in society, are preserved within conceptions of the feminine. Consequently, the feminine becomes an object of male desire, while women are conceived as lacking nostalgic reactions; there is no reason to long for continuity and the traditional if you are not supposed to have differentiated yourself from that realm. The study demonstrates how the two novels thematize the experience of loss; how the female nostalgic voice functions in relation to traditional male nostalgia; and how woman is portrayed respectively as a nostalgic subject and as an object of nostalgia. This leads to a discussion of woman’s position in modernity, and whether a utopian dimension of nostalgia can be detected in the novels.
The essay elucidates nostalgia as a complex phenomenon, which is treated with ambivalence in Händelser vid vatten and Aprilhäxan. The experience of loss and longing can be described as a counterpoint in the two novels, while romanticizations of the past simultane-ously are unmasked and revealed as mendacious. In both novels, women function as nostalgic subjects, something which is interpreted as a transgression of the nostalgic discourse, since it contradicts the notion that woman is untouched by the forces of society and the passing of time. However, woman also functions as an object of nostalgia, although this is subjected to deconstruction. The main dismantling factor of the nostalgic discourse is how Ekman and Axelsson destabilize the boundaries between nature and culture, as well as between the private and the public. When no clear dividing lines can be distinguished between these dimensions, there is nothing untainted left for nostalgic yearning.
The title of the essay is “Creative Mourning”, an expression that points to the double function of loss in the two novels: as something both expressed at a thematic level and as a driving force for literary creativity. This means that the novels partly counteract the loss they thematize, by preserving the past and the fantastic in fictional form and by shedding light on a part of history which otherwise risks being forgotten, all of which leads to a change or a shift in the dominant discourse of modernity. Thus, the pondering of memory contributes to the changing of a collective cultural memory. Accordingly, nostalgia used as a startingpoint can work as a utopian force, since it focuses on the flaws of current society. In both novels, consuming obsession with the past is explained as a result of the zeal of the modern future-oriented society to discard everything considered old and past, which has lead to the opposite result. Therefore, the central conclusion is drawn that the opposite of nostalgia is not oblivion, but memory.
Lisa Schmidt, KR’PTA. Samtidspoesin och Derrida. Spår och ärrbildningar hos Johannes Heldén, Ingrid Storholmen och Anna Hallberg. (CR’PT. Contemporary Poetry and Derrida: Traces and Scarring in the Poetry of Johannes Heldén, Ingrid Storholmen and Anna Hallberg.)
Through the analyses of three contemporary Nordic poets whose work challenges the boundaries of literature and even the laws of grammar, I draw attention to the term linguistic materialism. I also sketch an historical line between the predecessors of the experimentation with the poetic language in the past, starting with Mallarmé, and the experiments of today. In conclusion, I discuss language poetry from a wider philosophical point of view, in relation to Derrida and Wittgenstein.
Burner, the debut of Swedish poet Johannes Heldén, combines an abstract intellectual and theory-based form with graffiti as the main topic, which results in a questioning of the structures of language and text. The poems will here be connected to Derrida’s terms crypt, ashes, date and wound (in my analyses, wound is also transformed into scars and marks or tracks). The main feature of the Norwegian author Ingrid Storholmen’s Skamtalen Graceland is the visuality of language that appears through different fonts and formations as well as through marked words visualizing a scarred text. Anna Hallberg has been a leading figure for the genre of language poetry in Sweden. In connection to the analysis of her latest poetry collection, På era platser, some ideas of the early Wittgenstein are applied. It seems as if the language-focused poets of today want to contribute to the philosophical language debate from within the topic of the same debate, that is, from the inside of poetry itself.
Marika Andræ, Pappas flicka? Fäder och döttrar i ungdomslitteratur från 2000-talet. (Daddy’s Girl? Fathers and Daughters in Young Adult Literature from the 21st Century.)
How are relations between fathers and their teenage daughters depicted in early twentiethcentury young adult literature? The new research area of fatherhood, sociology of families and research concerning ethnic conflicts within the family is used as a background to the textual analysis of six novels where fathers and daughters are figured. Some modern manuals, directed separate to fathers and daughters, are used to reflect the ideal image of the relation between a father and a teenage daughter. The central notions in these advisory books are: to be a model, responsibility, communication, honesty, respect, confirmation and intimacy. These notions are used in the analysis. The fathers pictured in the novels are mostly ambivalent in their position as an adult and oftenly hand over the responsibility for the relationship to the daughters. The stories about ethnic conflicts picture fathers with strict authority. To handle this, the daughters either have to adjust to the existing power paradigm by guarding their behaviour, or use several strategies to avoid conflicts, or break up from their families. But the girls wish, nonetheless, for exactly the same relationship to their fathers as the daughters in the other novels. The girls want physical and mental intimacy, they want to be acknowledged as individuals and they long for a steady father figure who shares his daugther’s concerns. But they all seem to excuse the fathers for their inability to fulfill this. Instead they turn to a new relationship with a friend or a boyfriend. When the fathers do show some stumbling effort to develop a new kind of contact, the daughters willingly welcome the attempt with a great deal of benevolence. A comparison is also made with Vivi Edström’s study of the father and daughter theme in Swedish young adult novels from the 1970’s and 1980’s. There are resemblances between the older and the younger literature with regard to gender patterns: the daughter is described as a mature care-taker and the father as a little child.