Swedish Literature Part I

By | August 18, 2021

According to historyaah, the Swedish literature includes works of literature in Swedish in Sweden and Finland.

Written evidence from the era before Christianization (around 1100 AD) can only be found on the numerous Swedish rune stones. Poetic runic texts, picture stones and rock carvings show familiarity with the heroic saga and allow the conclusion that the genres of Norse literature, with the exception of the saga, were also known in Sweden.

So far, seven Swedish writers have received the Nobel Prize for Literature: Selma Lagerlöf (1909), V. von Heidenstam (1916), E. A. Karlfeldt (1931), P. F. Lagerkvist (1951) and E. O. V. Johnson and H. E. Martinson (both 1974) and TG Tranströmer (2011).

Middle Ages

The late Christianization brought the Latin writing culture and thereby led to a break in tradition; Pagan-Germanic consciousness lived on only in the native language landscape rights. Religious literature, mostly in Latin (Petrus de Dacia, * around 1230, † 1289; Brynolf Algotsson, † 1317), found its climax in the mystical visions (“Uppenbarelser”, around 1342–49) of St. Birgitta whose Latin version (“Revelationes”, 1371–80) caused a sensation all over Europe. In secular, mother-tongue literature, in addition to the rhyming chronicles based on the German model (“Erikskrönika”, around 1325; “Karlskrönika”, around 1450), translated and edited knight episodes were of importance. the “Eufemiavisor” (three epics, 1303-12), “Konung Alexander” (around 1380) and “Karl Magnus” (before 1430). Bishop Thomas von Strängnäs († 1443) wrote the first significant independent poems in the national language. The folk ballads, which were only collected in the 19th century, developed as oral literature at the end of the 13th century under German, Danish and Norwegian influence; In 1477 the first Swedish university was founded in Uppsala.

Reformation time

The initially strongly polemical Reformation literature, which was initiated by the writings of the Luther students O. and L. Petri, received its vernacular foundation from the first translations of the Bible. The first Swedish translation of the New Testament in 1526 also marks the linguistic-historical boundary between Old and New Swedish. The prelates Johannes Magnus (* 1488, † 1544) and Olaus Magnus left Sweden; In exile in Italy, Johannes wrote the great royal chronicle “Historia de omnibus gothorum sveonumque regibus” (published in 1554), his brother Olaus the ethnographic-historical work »Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus« (1555). The beginnings of Swedish drama (J. Messenius) also fall during this period.

Great power time

The epochs in Swedish literary history after 1600 have always been shaped more by political history than by contemporary literary currents in Europe. The “great power period” (from the accession of Gustav II Adolf to the death of Charles XII) included the transition from humanism to the so-called Carolinian Baroque. The arts and sciences were promoted and centralized by the Swedish court. In addition to Queen Christine, the nobility (A. G. Graf Oxenstierna) acted as protectors and promoters of the arts and sciences, which are no longer understood only nationally: R. Descartes, H. Grotius, S. von Pufendorf, J. A. Comenius et al. were called to Sweden, universities and schools were founded. Parallel to this opening to Europe, interest in the mother tongue, Swedish history and prehistoric studies (“Göticism”) arose. The encyclopedic-polyhistorical awareness of the epoch is reflected in the historical work »Atland eller Manheim« (4 volumes, 1675–1702) by the polymathOlof Rudbeck the Elder (* 1630, † 1702), which depicts Sweden as the cradle of peoples and the origin of all cultures. Andreas Arvidi (* around 1620, † 1673) wrote the first Swedish poetics “Manuductio ad poesin Svecanam” (1651) based on the model of the German M. Opitz and the Dane Hans Mikkelsen Ravn (* around 1610, † 1663). In L. Wivallius found Swedish literature its first popular poet. With his poem “Hercules” (1658; German) G. Stiernhielm ushered in a new era in which it was not the native language tradition, but the European art poetry with its fixed rules and forms that determined literature. With its rhetorical and representative character, poetry became an expression of the baroque world order. The poetry was partly religious (Haquin Spegel, * 1645, † 1714; Jacob Frese, * 1690, † 1729; Jesper Swedberg, * 1653, † 1735), partly secular and reached its climax with Skogekär Bergbo L. Johansson (Lucidor) and J. Runius. With his pompous funeral poem»Kunga skald« (1698), Gunno Dahlstierna (* 1661, † 1709) created the representative work of the great power era, a manifestation of absolutist royalty.

Swedish Literature 1


At the beginning of the 18th century, the “period of freedom” (1718–72), French and English influences replaced the cultural dominance of German. The French classical music and the poetics of N. Boileau-Despréaux ‘determined the poetry. Unity and divergence of the epoch were evident in C. von Linnés’ scientific systematics and in E. Swedenborg’s religious-fantastic mysticism (“De cultu et amore Dei”, 2 parts, 1745). With his moral-satirical weekly »Then swänska Argus«, Olof von Dalinwas the founder of modern Swedish prose language, written by the first Swedish novelist Jacob Henrik Mörk (* 1714, † 1763) and the humorist J. Wallenberg has been further developed. The ideas of the Early Enlightenment reflected the members of the order of the »Thought Builders« (»Tankebyggarorden«): Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht (* 1718, † 1763), Gustaf Philip Graf Creutz (* 1731, † 1785) and Carl Graf Gyllenborg (* 1679, † 1746). In addition to these representatives of the so-called academic style, the greatest Swedish poet of the 18th century, the lyric poet C. M. Bellman, whose poems are based on the anacreontic tradition of social and drinking songs. In 1737 Sweden received a national theater, and Swedish dramas based on the models of J. Racines, Molières and L. Baron von Holbergs were performed.