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Reviewed by:
  • Ett rum för sig: Subjektframställning vid 1900-talets slut: Ninni Holmqvist, Hanne Ørstavik, Jon Fosse, Magnus Dahlström och Kirsten Hammann
  • Kristina Malmio
Kristina Hermansson . Ett rum för sig: Subjektframställning vid 1900-talets slut: Ninni Holmqvist, Hanne Ørstavik, Jon Fosse, Magnus Dahlström och Kirsten Hammann. Göteborg, Stockholm: Makadam förlag, 2010. Pp. 287.

I am essentially myself? Or rather: "I" become, as a product of language? We live in a time characterized by a deep contradiction when it comes to our views on the topic called "subject." According to many scholars, a predominant transformation of the subject has taken place and the fluctuation between two distinct positions in literary and theoretical works is a fact: the humanistic idea of people as more or less autonomous individuals and the poststructuralist position which in a number of ways decentralizes and deconstructs the subjects.

This observation, expressed in many late novels and theories, is central for the study of Kristina Hermansson. In her doctoral thesis Ett rum för sig: Subjektframställning vid 1900-talets slut: Ninni Holmqvist, Hanne Ørstavik, Jon Fosse, Magnus Dahlström och Kirsten Hammann Hermansson scrutinizes the establishment of the subject and the various aspects of identity that occupied five Scandinavian novels from the 1990s. The literary works studied are; Ninni Holmqvist's Nåxgot av beståxende karaktär ("Something of Lasting Character," 1999) and Magnus Dahlström's Hem ("Home," 1996), Hanne Ørstavik's Kjærlighet ("Love," 1997), Jon Fosse's Bly og vatn ("Lead and Water," 1992), and Vera Winkelvir by Kirsten Hammann (1993).

The novels, two from Sweden, two from Norway and one from Denmark, are studied in relation to international theory on subject and identity, mainly [End Page 453] to the ideas of such influential scholars as Judith Butler, Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens and Michel Foucault. Each novel gets a chapter of its own and is scrutinized in relation to one of the four major categories of importance, namely nomenclature, intimacy, spatiality, and corporeality.

In her analyses, Hermansson centers on the ways the novel's figures are depicted in relation to theoretical discussion of subject establishment. The use of pseudonyms and names in Ninni Holmqvist's Nåxgot av beståxende karaktär is examined in relation to Judith Butler's discussion of nomenclature and Anthony Giddens's comments on the establishment of the self. Here Hermansson traces the linkages between the functions of the names and the problems of identity raised in the novel and in contemporaneous theory. The relationship between identity and intimacy is discussed in the chapter on Hanne Ørstavik's Kjærlighet and spatiality is examined in Jon Fosse's Bly og vatn in relation to Michel Foucaults heterotopia, "an achieved utopia," in order to show how the novel stages a male fantasy. The analysis of Dahlström's Hem, which according to Hermansson "penetrates the Cartesian gap between body and mind," treats the ways corporeality is depicted in the novel.

In the last chapter the Danish novel Vera Winkelvir is used to summarize the observations and arguments put earlier in the book. Hermansson also compiles the reception of the novels in order to uncover general characteristics and commonly held premises regarding subject and identity, apprehensions that then affect the ways the works in question are evaluated by the critics.

The categories used in analyses, those of nomenclature, intimacy, spatiality and corporeality, both focus and broaden the scrutiny of the novels and even make it possible to take up other questions related to subjectivity, for example those of class and gender. The analyses of the novels are illustrative and well-founded and the description of the theories on subjectivity and identity clear and comprehensive.

A theoretical pluralism is characteristic of the study. A consequence of this is that the use of the theories becomes at times a bit fleeting—many names are mentioned, many perspectives are used only to focus one aspect in one of the novels under scrutiny. Giddens' idea of "pure relationships" being characteristic of the postmodern era is one of the few concepts employed in the analysis of several novels and also discussed in a more critical manner. Hermansson...


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