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New Nordic environments in Eyvind Johnson’s factual and fictional prose, 1928-1932

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-41
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Scandinavian Studies
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2018

Abstract

The main aim of the article is to offer a closer examination of interfaces between Johnson’s factual and fictional modes of writing around 1930, with a particular emphasis on analysing accounts and appreciations of modern environments, infrastructures and mentalities in ‘peripheral’ as well as ‘central’ Swedish locations. To frame theoretically this examination the article opens by considering some aspects of the current scholarly discourse on the hybrid genre of travel writing, to which the nonfictional texts in question broadly belong, and on the interrelationship between factual and fictional modes of representation.The article goes on to consider three of Johnson’s newspaper reportage pieces that may be located in the subgenre of domestic travel writing, popular in the interwar period, while they also, as ‘foreign’ correspondence of sorts, contribute to confounding the very concept ofhome nation as well as challenging the distinction between ‘off-centre’ and ‘centre’ in the nation space. In its third phase, the article discusses two novels that illustrate, respectively,the ‘marginal’ and the metropolitan variant of domestic modernism in Johnson’s fictional work, thus complementing the reportage pieces. The article demonstrates how topics and tropes of traffic, motorisation, building, acceleration, coordination and internationalisation influence in various ways the new national topographies of the north presented in all five of Johnson’s texts. The article argues that the texts thereby contribute to renegotiating a sense of national selfhood in an era of rapid change in technologies and communications and of increased international interaction. The comparative lens of the article illuminates furthermore some of the fictionalising stylistic devices that inform Johnson’s factual narratives, while demonstrating conversely that closeness of correspondence with authentic infrastructural features may find its most manifest use in Johnson’s fictional narratives. The proposed quintet of texts serves, additionally, to show the significance of subjective,multiple and contested perception in Johnson’s new northern environments. The article concludes by situating the discussion of Johnson’s narratives in the context of new approaches to Scandinavian literary modernism.

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