Scandinavian Literary Theory and Criticism

Scandinavian Literary Theory and Criticism


a study that developed in the 19th century. Its emergence was preceded by works of medieval skaldic poetics, such as the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, and works of 17th- and 18th-century antiquaries and historians, including A. S. Vedel, P. Syv, and T. Bartholin of Denmark, T. Torfaeus of Norway, and Olaus Magnus, O. Verelius, J. Peringskiöld, and E. J. Björ-ner of Sweden. Early Scandinavian literary scholarship bears the stamp of syncretic philological learning, from which developed the ancillary disciplines of archive science, textology, bibliography, and folklore studies. During the 19th century, a unique Scandinavian school of folklore studies developed; prominent scholars included the Danes S. Grundtvig and A. Olgren, the Icelanders E. O. Sveinsson and Finnur Jónsson, the Norwegians S. Bugge and J. Moe, and the Swedes A. A. Af-zelius, G. Geijer, and A. Noreen.

The first work of historical literary scholarship—an outgrowth of classical philology—was a Latin work by the Uppsala professor I. Schaeffer entitled The Literature of Sweden (1680). During the period of classicism, the Enlightenment figures L. Holberg of Denmark and O. von Dalin and J. H. Lidén of Sweden laid the foundations for morally evaluative literary scholarship. With the stimulation of historical, philosophic, and aesthetic studies during the romantic era, a cultural-historical method developed in Scandinavian literary scholarship, a genre of creative biography emerged, and scholarship was influenced by the ideas of C. A. Sainte-Beuve and H. Taine. The most important representatives of romantic Scandinavian literary scholarship were L. Hammarsköld, P. D. Atterbom, and J. R. Nyblom of Sweden and M. A. Goldschmidt, J. L. Heiberg, P. M. Môller, N. M. Petersen, and H. K. P. Hansen of Denmark.

The ideological manifestos of G. Brandes constituted an important stage in the history of Scandinavian literary scholarship. The manifestos formulated the principles of a socially activist and critical analysis of literature alongside those of a positivist theory of criticism. Modernist tendencies emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the neoroman-tic and aesthetic-psychological trends represented by H. Bang, V. Stuckenberg, and L. Feilberg of Denmark, J. Bing and G. Larsen of Norway, and O. Levertin, O. Hansson, and O. Sylwan of Sweden. The late 1930’s and the 1940’s witnessed the appearance of the New Criticism in the Scandinavian countries, and the 1950’s and 1960’s saw the emergence of “semantic literary scholarship” (structuralism), which regards literature as an immanent phenomenon. Prominent representatives of the latter trend include the Danes G. Ruin, F. J. Billeskov Jansen, and J. Fjord-Jensen and the Swede G. Tidestrôm. During the 1970’s, sociological and sociological-statistical methods of literary analysis began developing.

The traditional methodology of Scandinavian literary scholarship is academic, cultural-historical, and comparative and tends to describe rather than analyze empirical facts; this at times excludes the possibility of broad philosophic generalizations. Prominent representatives of Scandinavian literary scholarship in the 20th century include V. Andersen, J. V. Jensen, G. Koefoed, P. V. Rubow, M. Brøndsted, and S. Møller-Kristensen of Denmark, F. Bull, H. Beyer, and K. Heggelund of Norway, S. Nordal of Iceland, and H. Schück, K. Warburg, F. Book, M. Lamm, A. Verin, and E. N. Tigersted of Sweden. Marxist literary theory and criticism mostly takes the form of publicistics.

A special trend in Scandinavian literary scholarship is represented by Slavic and Russian studies. As early as the late 17th century, the Swedish antiquary J. G. Sparvenfeldt (1655–1722) collected Slavic manuscripts in Rus’. C. J. Lénström defended the world’s first doctoral dissertation on A. S. Pushkin in Sweden in 1841. In 1859 the University of Copenhagen established the first Scandinavian department of Slavic studies and named K. V. Smit as department head. The most prominent Scandinavian Slavicists of the 20th century have included the Swedes A. Jensen and N. O. Nielsen, the Norwegians A. Karlgren, E. Krag, and G. Hetso, and the Danes A. I. Stender-Petersen and K. Stief.


Bredsdorf, E. L. Literatura i obshchestvo v Skandinavii. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from Danish.)
Stender-Petersen, A. I. “K istorii skandinavskoi slavistiki.” Scando-Slavica, 1960, vol. 6, PP. 5–18.
Sharypkin, D. M. “Russkaia literatura na stranitsakh zhurnala ‘Scando-Slavica.’” Russkaia literatura, 1973, no. 3.
Linner, S. Litteraturhistoriska argument. Stockholm, 1964.
Den moderne roman og romanforskning i Norden. Bergen, 1971.
Andersen, P. Bibliography of Scandinavian Philology. Copenhagen, 1954.


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