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Det sanna snillet: Genus och geni hos Thomas Thorild
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas.
2014 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The true genius : Gender and genius in the writings of Thomas Thorild (English)
Abstract [en]

In the eighteenth century, the word genius acquired a new meaning – that of extraordinary endowment – and started to be used to denote a particular type of superior human being. Author and philosopher Thomas Thorild (1759–1808) introduced this new concept in Sweden. The present thesis examines gender aspects concerning this exclusive identity, with the purpose of analysing how gender interacts with social status, age and ethnicity in the construction of the concept of genius in the writings of Thorild. The thesis examines the extent to which concepts relating to masculinity and femininity are involved in the definitional conflicts regarding genius and the significance that other identity categories have in these contexts. My focus is on the Swedish word snille, the word most commonly used for genius during this period.

The analysis shows that Thorild describes the genius as both manly and womanly. He relates to the different ways of understanding gender that were available in the transition from an older conception of gender and identity to a more modern one. When Thorild describes the genius as manly, he understands manliness in terms of ideal humanity and maturity. When he describes the genius as womanly, or rather resembling women, he relates to another, more modern way of perceiving gender by emphasising two different gender categories. There is a difference between the concept of manliness, where gender interacts with age, and the woman–man gender division, in which gender is constructed in relation to social status and ethnicity. The genius combines the classical manly virtue that emphasises autonomy, forceful action, civic duty and political responsibility with a new feminine moral ideal that prioritises peaceful, social coexistence in civil society. The concept of genius not only contributes to the establishment of a conception of the individual as an autonomous subject, but also relates to the ways in which this individual is expected to work for the good of humanity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg & Stockholm: Makadam Förlag, 2014. , 216 p.
Keyword [en]
genius, gender, masculinity, femininity, intersectionality, age, social status, ethnicity, conceptual history, eighteenth century, Sweden, Thomas Thorild
Keyword [sv]
snille, geni, genus, manlighet, kvinnlighet, intersektionalitet, ålder, social tillhörighet, etnicitet, begreppshistoria, 1700-talet, Sverige, Thomas Thorild
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102578ISBN: 978-91-7061-146-9OAI: diva2:711672
Public defence
2014-05-23, Auditorium 215, Humanistvillan, Frescativägen 24, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-04-30 Created: 2014-04-09 Last updated: 2014-06-24Bibliographically approved

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Nordström, Kristina
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Department of Literature and History of Ideas
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