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Det groteska: Kroppens språk och språkets kropp i svensk lyrisk modernism
Stockholm University.
1999 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Grotesque : The language of the body and the body of the language in Swedish lyrical modernism (English)
Abstract [en]

It is the objective of this thesis to trace the grotesque image and determine its configurations in Swedish lyrical modernism, and to reveal the theoretical and historical incentives to these images. The grotesque image has been a powerful expression during the 20th century. Before that, mainly novels and dramas provided the opportunity for grotesque images. The genre of poetry, up to this point in time, was relatively untouched by figures of bodily excess. However, the outburst of grotesqueries in poetry at the beginning of the 20th century was preceeded by clear indications in the past.

In order to trace the appearance of the modernist grotesque, I follow the development of the grotesque, primarily from its linguistic birth at the end of the 15th century. The grotesque ornament, and to some extent the ornamental tradition in general, is a suitable point of departure from which to approach the appearance of the grotesque in modernism. Traditionally a marginal phenomenon, the position of this ornament is gradually shifted towards a center which challenges the notion that ornaments are meaningless and merely for pleasure. This displacement from a marginal to a central position is revealed at the end of the 18th century, where particularly German romanticists conceived of the grotesque as an important aesthetic category. Furthermore, they put the grotesque in connection to metaphysics, giving it a prominent position in the vicinity of the sublime.

This connection to the sublime is inherited by the 20th century poetry. It is my intention to show that the grotesque images in Swedish modernism reveal the same urge as the sublime when it comes to affecting the supersensual spheres. These images, however, are arrested at the peak of the sensuous and because of this sensuousness, which they are unable to transcend. In their efforts to deal with the supersensual, Pär Lagerkvist, Edith Södergran, Elmer Diktonius, Gunnar Björling, Artur Lundkvist, Harry Martinson and Gunnar Ekelöf reveal the supremacy of the body in different but also similar ways. In the quest for the Absolute, the body in Lagerkvist's poetry is distorted in agony; Södergran rarely makes use of the grotesque image, but when she does, it touches upon the poetic act and expression; Diktonius restlessly focuses on those bodily processes which connect to sexuality and metabolism, transposing these processes to the act of expression; Björling's early poetics is characterized by a sensuousness which prevails at all linguistic levels, a background against which his bodily transformations appear; Lundkvist's poetry is haunted by a sense of horror vacui that forces him to explore the mythic and psychic depths of the human being, asphere marked by bodily inconguities and transgressions; Martinson's lyrical grotesqueries treat the excess of food and Ekelöf's grotesque images the bodyfluids in relation to the meaninglessness of life. There is, for all of these poets, a constant transference between the body and the surrounding world, but the grotesque image prevents any harmonious union: the contrasting elements remain unresolved in relation to each other.

Hence, the grotesque image tends to engage in the problems of comprehension and the means and possibilities of expression. My intention is to expose the differences between the separate authorships in relation to these issues.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Aiolos , 1999. , 387 p.
Keyword [en]
Literature, grotesque, aesthetics, modernism, Swedish poetry, Pär Lagerkvist, Edith Södergran, Elmer Diktonius, Gunnar Björling, Artur Lundkvist, Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf, sublime, ornament, mythology
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-63355ISBN: 91-972572-5-7OAI: diva2:448425
Public defence
1999-01-30, 10:00
Available from: 2011-10-17 Created: 2011-10-17Bibliographically approved

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