This course examines expressions of madness and monstrosity in women’s writing throughout the Nordic literatures from late nineteenth and through the twentieth century. We will read a host of fictional texts that investigate a split between social conformity and resistance, where madness and beastliness become a way to reject patriarchal gender expectations. The approach will be intersectional, and the readings will be situated within the context of cultural, medical, and literary history, as well as feminist philosophy. How do Nordic women negotiate the crisis between gender norms and the yearning for individual freedom, and how does that overlap with the capitalist logic of production? Sometimes, as in the Finnish Aino Kallas’ novel The Wolf’s Bride from 1928, the protagonist turns into a werewolf; other times, as in Norwegian Amalie Skram’s novel Professor Hieronomus from 1895 and Danish Tove Ditlevsen’s Faces from 1968, the protagonists are institutionalized and pathologized; or as in Swedish Victoria Benedictsson’s Out of the Darkness from, the voice of a female is literally emerging from the darkness of melancholy, inviting us to inquire into the emotional response to internalized power. We will trace the unfolding of the themes throughout the century, asking how emotions and violence intersected in aesthetic form. The course will scrutinize how confessional poetics from 1960s challenge the notion of disembodied aesthetics, and how contemporary poetry examines empathy, care, and labour. Besides a host of Nordic women writers, including Tove Jansson, Edith Södergran, Marja-Liisa Vartio, and Athena Farrokhzad, we will read works by non-Nordic authors such as Jenny Zhang, bell hooks, Chris Kraus, Kate Zambreno, Adrienne Rich, Maggie Nelson, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Sara Ahmed. We will also consider film, music, and performance.
All readings will be in English.