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Jag var kvinna: Flickor, kärlek och sexualitet i Agnes von Krusenstjernas tidiga romaner
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.
2018 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
I Was a Woman : Girls, Love, and Sexuality in Agnes von Krusenstjerna’s Early Novels (English)
Abstract [en]

The Swedish author Agnes von Krusenstjerna is known for her depictions of girls becoming women, a motif that she returns to again and again throughout her works. Previous academic literature on Krusenstjerna highlights that she writes about girls, maturation, and eroticism, but does not explore what ‘becoming a woman’ means. While the terms ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ are commonly regarded as signifiers of age and sex only, they are in fact laden with a number of assumptions, which I explore in Krusenstjerna’s novels. 

This thesis analyses the depictions of girls coming of age through their encounter with love and sexuality in Krusenstjerna’s early novels Ninas dagbok (The Diary of Nina, 1917), Helenas första kärlek (Helena’s First Love, 1918), and the Tony trilogy Tony växer upp (Tony Grows Up, 1922), Tonys läroår (Tony’s Apprenticeship, 1924), and Tonys sista läroår (Tony’s Last Apprenticeship, 1926). I explore how the idea of girls becoming women relates to love and sexuality, and I pose the following questions: How is the term ‘girl’ constructed in Krusenstjerna’s early novels? How does a girl become a woman and what implications does womanhood have? Which characters and phenomena in the girl’s surroundings constitute the conditions for her becoming a woman, and which ones risk delaying or even preventing this transition? Furthermore, I seek to connect the depiction of girls, love, and sexuality with Krusenstjerna’s contemporary literary critics’ view of her early novels as girls’ books, i.e. novels for young women, or associated with that literary tradition, even though they were not published as such. 

I use a combination of feminist and queer theory focussing on temporality. Throughout the thesis, I connect Krusenstjerna’s writings to those of other authors. The following novels are connected to the tradition of books for girls and are used as the starting point for my hermeneutical readings of Krusenstjerna’s works: The Girls at His Billet (1916) by Berta Ruck, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) and Dear Enemy (1915) by Jean Webster, as well as Anne of Green Gables (1908), The Blue Castle (1926), and Emily’s Quest (1927) by L. M. Montgomery. Examining these novels, I focus on the motif of girls becoming women as well as a selection of other related topics. 

The thesis addresses two different ways of coming of age depicted in Krusenstjerna’s early novels. The protagonists of the first two novels, Nina and Helena, are portrayed as ‘girls’ who become ‘women’ through their encounter with men and their choice in love, whereas the protagonist of the Tony trilogy is described as a ‘girl’ who only temporarily becomes a ‘woman’ but then turns into a ‘girl’ again. Accordingly, the act of becoming a woman in Krusenstjerna’s first two novels, which is typical for the girls’ book tradition, follows normative expectations of the life trajectory, whereas the queer act of becoming – or rather un-becoming – a woman in the later Tony trilogy does not adhere to the same assumptions. I argue that the fact that the second part of the Tony trilogy has the same plot as Ninas dagbok, and the third instalment the same story as Helenas första kärlek, amplifies the impression that the Tony trilogy queers the normative life trajectory that is found in those two novels and is typical for the girls’ book tradition. Thus, as this thesis proposes, the girls’ book as seen in Krusenstjerna’s work, is queered.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg och Stockholm: Makadam Förlag, 2018. , p. 293
Series
Skrifter utgivna av Svenska barnboksinstitutet, ISSN 0347-5387 ; 147
Keywords [en]
Young adult literature, girls’ literature, girls, coming of age, love, heterosexuality, illness, gender, femininity, masculinity, queer theory, temporality, Agnes von Krusenstjerna, L. M. Montgomery, Jean Webster, Berta Ruck, Frances Hodgson Burnett
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-161548ISBN: 978-91-7061-274-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-161548DiVA, id: diva2:1260026
Public defence
2018-12-07, Auditoriet, Manne Siegbahnhusen, Frescativägen 24 E, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-11-14 Created: 2018-10-31 Last updated: 2018-11-01Bibliographically approved

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