Sweden Literature Part I

By | September 1, 2021

Nothing written about the ancient Swedish literary heritage of the pagan age has been preserved. According to programingplease, Sweden, like the other Scandinavian countries, must have known a rich literary flourishing of an epic-lyric character of which only faint echoes can be found in Icelandic, Norwegian and Danish texts of the contemporary age. The only direct testimony are some runic inscriptions on stone, written however relatively late (9th century AD), such as that of Rok in verse, partly illegible. Only with the spread of Christianity and the adoption of the Latin alphabet did written literature begin. The first texts are of a legal nature and date back to the beginning of the century. XIII; the oldest (ca. 1225) is the so-called law of the province of Västergötland. Revelationes di Santa Brigida (1303-1373), dominant personality of the religious and cultural life of the Swedish fourteenth century. The secular literature in Swedish is instead represented by some historical and patriotic chronicles, including that of Erik (ca. 1330). The sec. XVI was dominated by the religious ferment of the Reformation. Under the Lutheran stimulus and commissioned by Gustavo Vasa, the translation of the Bible was begun by Olaus Petri (1493-1552) and his brother Laurentius (1499-1573) completed in 1541. The reaction to the Reformation is represented by the Johannes brothers and Olaus Magnus, refugees in Rome in order not to submit to Lutheranism, author the first of a Historia de omnibus Gothorum Sueonumque regibus (1554), the second of a ‘ Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (1555). Only with the century. XVII the erudite taste of the European Renaissance reached Sweden. Center of irradiation of the changed cultural climate was the court of Queen Christina, a meeting point for foreign and Swedish writers. The elegant and worldly taste of the environment is reflected in a literature of stately and high-sounding forms, modeled on the Greek and Latin classics. The greatest exponents are Georg Stiernhielm (1598-1672), the “father of Swedish literature”, author of the poem Herkules (1658), which takes up the classic theme of Hercules debated between virtue and pleasure, and Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702) than in the poem Atland or Manheim presents Sweden as the cradle of Western culture by identifying it with Plato’s Atlantis. A popular and goliardic spirit is instead recognizable in two poets isolated from the official currents: Lars Wivallius (1605-69) and Lars Johansson known as Lasse Lucidor (1638-74), wandering spirits who sang with a popular vein the intoxication of wine and love. The Swedish eighteenth century was dominated by two different yet converging influences: the French Enlightenment on the one hand, recognizable in the interest in the sciences (A. Celsius, C. Linnaeus), in the creation of academies, literary salons, in the foundation of numerous newspapers, and pietism on the otherGerman, noticeable in the tormented mystical work of E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). And Linnaeus and Swedenborg are emblematic figures of this extraordinary mixture of mysticism and rationalism. In fact, in Linnaeus scientific observation is combined with a taste for the pictorial and the marvelous, in Swedenborg the most fantastic visions of the afterlife are rendered with analytical images of almost scientific precision. Central figure of the first half of the century was O. von Dalin (1708-63), who, following the example of the English Spectator and Tatler, founded the newspaper Then swänska Argus (1732-34; The Swedish Argo). The substantially rationalistic work of Dalin was matched by the eighteenth-century rococo grace of the poetess H. Ch. Nordenflycht (1718-63), the “turtle dove of the North”, animator of a literary salon frequented among others by G. Ph. Creutz (1731-85), specialist in pastoral idyll, and GF Gyllenborg (1731-1808), poet of stoic and moralizing inspiration. In the literary picture of the second half of the eighteenth century, CM Bellman (1740-95) occupies a separate place, a genuine interpreter of the gay Stockholm of the eighteenth century, portrayed with full-bodied adherence to everyday life beyond any Arcadian fashion. His lyrics were collected under the title of Fredman’s Epistles in 1790 by JH Kellgren (1751-95), satirical journalist and theater writer, arbiter of the taste of an era through the Stockholmsposten newspaper, of which he made the leading organ of Northern encyclopedism. On the last part of the century, new and different accents, which can be defined pre- romantic, are felt in the thoughtful verses of AM Lenngren (1754-1817), in the passionate effusions of B. Lidner(1757-93) and in the violent controversy that Th Thorild (1759-1808) led in the footsteps of Sturm und Drang against the official taste of the time represented by Kellgren. And it was precisely under the stimulus of this movement and all the ferments of early German Romanticism that romantic ideas began to circulate in Sweden, becoming the operating forces of a new course of Swedish literature. In Stockholm, formerly the center of Gustavian culture, the universities of Lund and Uppsala were replaced in the direction of intellectual life. The magazine Phosphoros, organ of the literary cenacle of the so-called phosphorists, was published in Uppsala in 1810. Dominant personality of the group was DA Atterbom (1790-1855), representative of a mystical-philosophical romanticism inclined to allegory and symbol. The current of the phosphorists was opposed by another romantic current that emphasized national values ​​and the heritage of pagan culture, the so-called group of the Gothicists, which had as its organ the magazine Iduna, published on the initiative of EG Geijer (1783- 1847), the greatest representative of nationalist romanticism. Also collaborating with Iduna was E. Tegnér (1782-1846), author of a cycle of romances in various meters, The Saga of Frithiof, which exalts Viking heroism in verses of courtly composure. EJ Stagnelius stands outside any school(1793-1823), who in lines of imaginative and sumptuous elegance expresses the conflict between an obsessive eroticism and a tormented and turbid religiosity. Isolated is also CJ Almqvist (1793-1866), author of a contradictory work where romanticism and realism, satire and idyll merge. Realistic motifs also appear in the work of F. Bremer (1801-65), a pioneer of the Scandinavian feminist movement, and of E. Flygare-Carlén (1807-92), an attentive descriptor of the life of fishermen. But it is above all through the work of C. Snoilsky (1841-1903) and V. Rydberg (1828-95), uncertain between myth and reality, that we seize the moment of transition from a romantic spiritual tradition to a new social sensitivity that is expressed in literature with naturalism.

Sweden Literature 1