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Das Phantastische als Erzählstrategie in vier zeitgenössischen Romanen
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of German.
2004 (German)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The fantastic as a narrative strategy in four contemporary novels (English)
Abstract [en]

The present dissertation investigates the use of the fantastic and its functions in contemporary prose, the initial hypothesis being that the fantastic is not historically exhausted, but continues to be productive. The major part of this study consists of a close reading of four novels printed between 1995 and 2001: Marie Hermanson’s Värddjuret (1995), Majgull Axelsson’s Aprilhäxan (1997), Karen Duve’s Regenroman (1999) and Elfriede Kern’s Schwarze Lämmer (2001). Tzvetan Todorov’s definition of the fantastic as structural ambiguity is fundamental to the dissertation. In order not to bind the definition to a normative concept of genre, the fantastic is in this study considered as a narrative strategy.

The dissertation’s analyses demonstrate that in these contemporary novels there is considerable variation of narrative devices, as well as of intertextual motifs deriving from the ‘archive’ provided by the tradition of the fantastic. The fantastic is to a great extent intertextual, but does not merely function as a “signal of fiction” in a postmodern game where ambiguity is no longer relevant. Instead, the narrated world in these novels is characterized by a deeply-rooted ambivalence, heterogeneity and instability. Both attractive and dangerous, the fantastic corresponds to a meeting with “the other” and the unknown, while dampening the conflict between the supernatural and the natural so clearly seen in Todorov. What is central is not the crisis of perception undergone by the novel’s characters as they choose between two opposing views of reality, but their mental state of mind. These characters are in a condition of “betwixt and between”, which in all four novels is linked to the theme of the artist. Via the fantastic, Regenroman initiates a confrontation with male myths of the artist and images of women.

Schwarze Lämmer also engages the romantic fantastic tradition and investigates the link between adolescent delusions of grandeur and artistic creativity. Värddjuret, on the other hand, depicts the genesis of a female artist, while Aprilhäxan presents the female artist’s monstrous image of herself and fantasies of omnipotence. An additional function of the fantastic in these four novels is to thematize a concept of reality that is based, not on the contrast between the natural and the supernatural, but on the possibility of several different realities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2004. , 213 p.
Stockholmer germanistische Forschungen, ISSN 0491-0893 ; 63
Keyword [en]
The fantastic, Todorov, narrative strategy, devices and motifs, functions of the fantastic, liminality, ambivalence, the other, novel of the artist, hybrid genres, intertextuality, Karen Duve, Marie Hermanson, Majgull Axelsson, Elfriede Kern.
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Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-29ISBN: 91-22-02054-3OAI: diva2:192021
Public defence
2004-02-27, hörsal 4, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2004-01-27 Created: 2004-01-27 Last updated: 2012-07-09Bibliographically approved

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