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Fältets herrar: Framväxten av en modern författarroll
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Masters of the Field : The Origin of a Modern Role of Authors (English)
Abstract [en]

The dissertation describes a crucial step in the development of a modern writer's identity in Sweden. It applies the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of the autonomous ”literary field” to the development in eighteen-eighties, one of the most important periods in Swedish literary history.

During this decade a large group of authors appeared, with August Strindberg in the front. In accordance with the dominating esthetical view of the nineteenth century, ”ideal realism”, the writers had an ethical responsibility. But they differed from their predecessors by not being loyal to the bourgeois society and its values, as codified in the concept of ”decency”, that contained, among other things, rules for what could be said in public. On the contrary, the new generation of authors attacked the bourgeoisie in novels, dramas and articles, especially in the singularly most controversial area, the regulation of sexuality and the ideals of bourgeois women.

This study argues that the new authors in their radical criticism aimed at the position of power in society traditionally upheld by the State church, which supervised education and ethical values. They did this by creating a role for themselves as young and oppressed, something that made it possible to deny any responsibility for the present state and furthermore to speak up, despite their own bourgeois background, for other oppressed groups like the working classes, the poor and women. But this also meant that they could not be successful in their ambitions to gain influence without loosing their identity. This was especially the consequence of the fact that an autonomous ”literary field” did not yet exist. That is, there were no internal literary institutions that, seemingly independent of the rest of society, decided what was ”good literature.” Instead, the singularly most important judge of interesting literature was the bourgeois public. Strindberg seems to have realised this early, and achieved an identity as ”uncontrolled”. He thereby lost his intellectual credibility, but gained a much bigger freedom to write and also got the attention of the large audience. At the same time, his writing undermined the values of decency by breaking the bourgeois society’s fundamental wall between the private and the public sphere, not least by writing what was regarded as facts about his own private life.

The conservative reaction accelerated towards the end of the decade while the authors grew more and more bitter about the public’s lack of understanding. At this point the author Verner von Heidenstam took the opportunity to declare a new literary era, dissociating his aesthetics from the one of the Eighties and proclaiming the necessity of an aristocratic, ethically indifferent literature (with himself as its leader).

Confronted with the new concept of what ought to be regarded as “modern”, the established male authors were generally quick to separate themselves from the female authors, and to identify the attacked literature solely with the one that critically discussed the situation of women in society - a description that has been largely adopted in the history of literature. A number of male authors also wrote novels separating themselves from the Eighties. Thus, they could continue into the new period, while female authors in general were silenced or forced to write in less esteemed genres (”popular literature”, children’s books).

Ultimately the result was a more distinct male domination coupled with a growing contempt for the large audience. This, in turn, created a need for internal institutions that could interpret, value and support literature - scholarships, elitist critics, and a writers’ union. These institutions subsequently were founded or developed during the nineties – all of them steps towards autonomy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Eslöv: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion , 2004. , 524 p.
Keyword [en]
cultural field, literary field, State church, Swedish Academy, writer's identity, the Eighties, education, free intellectuals, women's identity, women's movement, bourgeois society, decency, the indecency debate, sexuality, narcissistic social critique
Keyword [sv]
Bourdieu, Habermas, Strindberg, Gustaf af Geijerstam, Benedictsson, Ola Hansson, Axel Lundegård, Levertin, Alfhild Agrell, kulturellt fält, litterärt fält, statskyrkan, Svenska Akademien, författarroll, författaridentitet, åttitalet, utbildning, fri intellektuell, kvinnorollen, kvinnorörelsen, borgerliga samhället, sedlighet, sedlighetsdebatten, sexualitet, narcissistisk samhällskritik
National Category
General Literature Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-49ISBN: 91-7139-662-4OAI: diva2:194565
Public defence
2004-03-05, sal G, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Svante Arrhenius väg 14-18, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2004-02-11 Created: 2004-02-11 Last updated: 2013-03-13Bibliographically approved

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