Vol 51 No 1, 2012
(Università degli Studi di Milano / University of Milan)
Helena Westermarck (1857-1938) was a Finnish painter, critic and novelist. This article uses Westermarck’s short story ‘Aftonstämning’ (1890) as a springboard for the investigation of the concept and practice of ekphrasis in general, and in the context of impressionism in particular. Concomitantly, reading Westermarck’s story through impressionism reveals her strategy of adopting a very modern form to explore social divisions in the Parisian cityscape. Her writing is thus seen to constitute a writerly parallel to the ‘middle way’ found by the female Scandinavian artists of the time, whose access to the city life immortalised by male impressionists was limited by social convention. This is particularly evident in Westermarck’s use of point of view, iconic projection, framing and cropping. Nevertheless, the article concludes by exposing the tensions between content and form in Westermarck’s interartistic transposition of visual elements, which contradicts the impressionist project to convey only sensory impressions, not ethical or social interest.
(University of Arizona)
Mid-twentieth-century Danish furniture design has recently been subject to scholarly reappraisal by critics attempting to explain its enduring success by means of economics and marketing strategy. This article asks whether the enduring appeal of Danish furniture, especially chairs by Jacobsen and Wegner, can be understood independently of style branding and the fashion cycle. The marketing narrative of the ‘timelessness’ of modern Danish style is interrogated as a re-appropriation of aesthetic principles expressive of the relationship between object, maker and user. Ultimately, the article poses the question whether the current popularity of Danish modern design is a function of the fashion cycle, or of more deeply-rooted human responses to functional objects.
(Lunds Universitet / Lund University)
As an extraordinarily popular genre, crime fiction is a fruitful space in which emerging cultural identities are represented and shaped. As such, the Swedish detective novel has been a site for the negotiation of Sweden’s transition to a broadlydefined ‘European’ identity in an age of Europeanization and globalization. In the last of the Wallander series, Den oroliga mannen (2009; The Troubled Man, 2011), the Swedish author Henning Mankell exploits this power of crime fiction to execute a simultaneously political and metafictive project. In this novel, Mankell presents the ‘threat’ and Europeanization in general as something positive, and in thus doing, he simultaneously points out the direction for Swedish crime fiction to take in the years to come.
This article analyses the multimedia project INNI (2011) by the Icelandic Band Sigur Rós as an instance of multisensory media. Drawing on the work of Laura U. Marks and others on multisensory and haptic cinematic strategies, the article offers a close reading of the film INNI which forms the centrepiece of the box set, examining the ambition of the director, Vincent Morisset, to transmit the ‘visceral power’ of the live shows. Strategies include image transfer between multiple formats, the intervention of the filmmaker’s hands and other objects on screen, perspective and framing, and haptic patternings. Together, it is argued, these effects function as materialisations of the affect that traverses spectator’s body and screen. Utimately, as its title suggests, INNI is less about documenting a live show by Sigur Rós and more about prompting a deeper engagement with the performance that starts with the eye’s perception of the surface of the image, and then moves inwards.
Comment and Debate
Atlantis, Stockholm 2009. 40 + 39.
Reviewed by Thomas Munck
Amongst the many pamphleteers active in Sweden-Finland during the 1750s and 1760s, contributing to a very lively public debate on key social, economic and political issues, Peter Forsskål (1732-63) has received relatively little attention from Swedish scholars, and is largely unknown outside Scandinavia except for his botanical research and his contribution to the Danish expedition to Arabia (during which he died from a fever). After studies at Uppsala and Göttingen, Forsskål in 1759 submitted his 10-page tract Thoughts on Civil Liberty for publication, but the Censor, Niklas Oelreich, insisted on changes before it was published late that year. Even so, the printed version met such strong reaction that it was banned. By then most of the print-run of 500 copies had already been distributed, so only 79 copies were destroyed.
This edition reproduces Forsskål’s original text, with comments and explanatory background both in Swedish and in English translation. The censored published version is available on-line. So few 18thcentury Swedish political tracts are available in translation that the present publication is in itself an important landmark. But it is of particular historical interest as one of the earliest contributions to the growing interest in civic rights in Enlightenment Europe – written well before either the American or the French revolutionaries compiled their own declarations of rights. Forsskål’s text is typical of radical liberal thinking of the later half of the century, with a strong emphasis on economic as well as social issues. It may be compared for example with the Rules of Government drafted by the Danish historian Peter Frederik Suhm in 1774 (see Historisk Tidsskrift, Copehhagen, 12/ VI, 1972), or the subsequent Virginian declaration of rights of 1776. Forsskål defined individual freedom and civil liberty broadly, subject only to the interests of society as a whole, and noted the threat posed by “those who are the most powerful ... by dint of their positions, estate or wealth”. The best defence of civil liberty, he argued, was a combination of limited government and “unlimited freedom of the written word”. In the uncensored version Forsskål also argued that true religion could speak for itself, without the need for protection through censorship. Forsskål’s short tract covered a lot of ground, helping to create a major debate in Sweden which led to the abolition of censorship in 1766. This very elegantly presented edition will give Forsskål the wider readership he deserves.
Studentlitteratur, Lund 2011. Pp. 294.
Reviewed by Agnes Broome
No one with the slightest interest in literature can have failed to notice that for some time now, the world has been riding a crime wave of prodigious proportions. Crime novels dominate best seller lists, book clubs and coffee break conversations and they have seamlessly crossed over into TV and film, coming to occupy a central place in our narrative culture. Though the increasing popularity of crime fiction has benefitted crime authors around the world, the rise of Scandinavian crime, and Swedish crime in particular, has been especially meteoric, establishing itself as an new, internationally successful subgenre. And yet despite this, a thorough overview of the crime genre’s development in Sweden has long been lacking, hampering budding research interest in this area of literary scholarship and obscuring the multifaceted history of Swedish crime and its relation to crime writing in other national traditions. With the publication of Kriminallitteratur, however, this unfortunate situation has finally been remedied. Bergman and Kärrholm book functions both as a comprehensive university textbook and as a guide for more casual crime enthusiasts seeking inspiration for further reading.
The book is subtitled ‘utveckling, genrer, perspektiv’ (history, genres, perspectives), referencing the division of the book into three distinct parts. The first, comprising the first three chapters, is a literature review which serves to outline the historical development of the crime novel and the detective character and to define and delineate the genre. The first chapter is dedicated to the international literary scene, covering developments in Europe, America and to some extent the rest of the world, showing how various conventions and styles have waxed and waned in influence over time. The second chapter surveys Swedish crime literature from its first appearance 1893 to the present day. Movements and developments are methodically listed, linked to particular authorships and set in relation to the wider international context, providing the reader with both specificity and broad perspectives. The third chapter considers the evolution of the detective, tracing this central character through its various phases and incarnations, providing along the way a number of charming portraits of memorable and distinctly idiosyncratic crime fighters.
The second section of the book comprises five chapters which further explore some of the genres briefly touched upon in previous chapters. Each chapter gives a brief history of a genre, outlines important themes and narrative devices, takes stock of the genre’s golden age and considers the role of the genre in today’s crime literature. In order, the section covers pusseldeckare (whodunits), hårdkokta deckare (hardboiled detectives), polisromanen (police fiction), thrillern (thrillers) and detective stories for children and young adults. The sections on police fiction and children’s detective stories are particularly interesting; the first because police fiction was so important for the development and success of Swedish crime writing and because it is so ubiquitous today, both in literature and on TV, and the second because scholarly literature on children’s detective stories is in maddeningly short supply, even though this genre is both important and fascinating. Indeed, given Sweden’s long tradition of taking children’s literature seriously, it is particularly pleasing that so much attention is afforded it by Bergman and Kärrholm.
The third and final part of the book, covering chapters nine to twelve, attempts a thematic reading of crime literature as a genre. The emergence and development of each selected theme is traced historically, both in the Swedish context and internationally. Chapter nine considers crime writing from the perspective of social critique, showing how the genre came to be infused with political discourse and investigating which issues and political orientations have tended to dominate. In chapter ten matters of gender are contemplated, particularly recent efforts to move the genre along from its extreme bias toward white heterosexual men, in terms of both texts and authors. Chapter eleven takes a closer look at the ever-increasing importance of science for the genre, a field of study still left largely unexplored by scholars. In the final chapter, by far the longest of the book, crime narratives in other media and modern intermediality are covered in some detail, from the early days of newspaper serials to current trends such as interactive websites and crime novels in text message form.
As an introductory text to crime fiction in general and Swedish crime in particular, Kriminallitteratur, does very well. Not only are the historical and contemporary surveys clearly structured and surprisingly exhaustive given the space constraints, they also encourage and enable the reader to explore the genre further through a combination of a generous supply of names and information and truly engaging writing. Particularly helpful are the lists of relevant and recommended titles that follow each chapter and the comprehensive index. The authors have consciously chosen to use a broad definition of crime fiction, ensuring that as many traditions and thematic strands as possible can be considered. On occasion, this strategy leads the discussion into less convincing territory, particularly perhaps in the chapter on children’s detective, but continual explicit reflection regarding the limits of genre definition turn this into an asset on balance. To aid further reading beyond the Swedish context, the book conforms to internationally used terminology and also makes frequent references to English terms and research traditions. It is easy to imagine both scholarly and popular audiences enjoying this book and finding it a source of inspiration for years to come.