Hedvig Harnsten: “What is a Modernist Literary Gesture? The Poetic Grimaces of Henry Parland”

In modernist literature the gesture – a nod, frown or a wave of the hand – appears as a strange figure, being detached from an expressive logic. The phenomenon is evident in Kafka, where gestures appear as silent, enigmatic intervals in the narrative. The aim of my research project is to investigate how this complex of problems, outlined in Kafka, and explicated by Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, actualizes itself in more radical ways in other forms of modernist literature. In my talk I will focus on Henry Parland’s “Ideals Clearance” (1929) and explore how the literary gestures no longer appear only on the level of representation but rather become a question of how the literary language itself gesticulates, or – in the case of Parland’s poetry – grimaces.

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