Ulrika Eleonora’s court circle was in contact with key figures in the Pietistic reform movement, and was thus a parallel to the spiritual movements on the continent, which were attempting to put the demand of freedom and human worth for the woman into practice.Many poems in Der Nordische Weihrauch manifest distaste for the pomp and splendour of court life and reveal a focus on the inner person.
The number and quality of treatises discussing women’s talents or lack there of was high sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. The works were divided up by genre and were available in both printed and handwritten form. It is an established fact that readers in the Nordic countries were familiar with European concepts such as “Feminae illustres” (illustrious women), “Feminae doctae” (learned women), “Musa decimal” (the tenth muse), and so forth. Awareness of “feminae illustres” or “feminae doctae” seems to have been linked to the Renaissance period. There were, of course, earlier examples of learned women, but the desire to count them and classify them, and even promote them, would seem to have been a Renaissance inclination that surfaced among the progressive male learned circles.
Märta Berendes’ story of her life and Christina Regina vom Birchenbaums song “Een Annor Ny wijsa” reflect the language models and interpretive patterns of the times. The texts are examples of the many independent and resilient seventeenth-century women, brought up in an era of numerous wars and obliged to take care of family and property.
Agneta Horns autobiography, which she called “Description of my wretched and much-troubled wanderings” is a ‘memory of lament’ recounting the story of a criticised, neglected, and little-loved girl who nonetheless manages to assert her will and give her opponents as good as she gets.Agneta Horns lefverne is fundamentally an account of Agneta Horn’s relationship with her father and with paternal power, of the identity as dutiful daughter that she and the times considered to be the ideal. Between the lines we can read disgreement between Agneta Horn and her stepmother, Sigrid Bielke. Objectively, the conflict revolved on the inheritance from Agneta’s father; ideologically, it revolved on Agneta Horn’s obedience to her father’s resolve.
Madame de Sévigné turned the epistolary genre into a women’s genre, not in the sense that it was mostly populated by women, but because the women in this one genre had the status of role models, both for men and for women.Starting with Madame de Sévigné, and moving through numerous collections of letters written by women (and men, too), we eventually reach, a good one hundred years later, Charlotta Dorothea Biehl, in whom we find an amazingly undiluted Nordic counterpart to Madame de Sévigné. Madame de Sévigné created a female genre, Miss Biehl executed it ‘to the letter’.
The eighteenth century can exhibit many pictures of women who, directly and in particular indirectly, are occupied with their own literary creation, and the stage-management of the creative woman in these portraits has been very carefully thought through and is sometimes extremely detailed.
Sweden’s first woman writer Sophia Elisabet Brenner’s work was in the form of poems for special occasions. She paid tribute to royalty and people of high rank on their weddings and their birthdays, and after victories in battle, and she wrote poems to the bereaved and to the deceased. She did not forget her friends, of course, but the majority of her recipients were higher up the social ladder.Two-thirds of her collected occasional poems were addressed to the uppermost social class; they were the ones it was worth paying your respects to, and we know from her contemporaries that Mrs Brenner’s poems were in demand and valued highly. It was not totally unknown for panegyric poetry to be written in honour of talented intellectual or artistic women of the day, and she also wrote poems on the deaths of women and children.
The Danish author Anna Margrethe Lasson decided to tackle the novel genre head-on by writing her own prose novel. This resulted in Den beklædte Sandhed (The Truth in Disguise), which was ready in manuscript form as early as 1715; it was published in 1723, and can thus actually claim to be the first published Nordic prose novel.“No living soul can stand to read it to the end,” wrote literary historian Rasmus Nyerup of Den beklædte Sandhed in 1828, and in the history of literature the novel has become something of a curiosity, which is only remembered because it was one of the few published Nordic pastoral novels to be written as a prose narrative.Anna Margrethe Lasson had various ambitions and ideas with her novel. She wanted to entertain her reader, demonstrate women’s writing abilities, and make her literary contribution to the national Danish language.
Even though much Nordic ballad tradition of the last four hundred and more years has been lost, the surviving tradition represents an overwhelming amount of source material. The intense registration and publication work undertaken during the last century and a half has resulted in an overview of the Nordic tradition.The extensive corpus of material on which these editions are based contains songs that were sung by and about women. From the host of female singers, collectors, and scribes, we will here select ballads dealing with women’s personal and fundamental experiences – experiences with critical bearing on family and lineage.
In the eighteenth century the Swedish Countess Maria Gustava Gyllenstierna was characterised as “a woman of great talent and noble heritage, who has honoured her Country and her Sex in these our times.” She is considered to be one of the skilled literary women of the time; she is listed in contemporary catalogues of Lärda Swenska Fruentimmer (Learned Swedish Women) and she is described as such in the directory of Swedish nobility.She was the second wife of Privy Councillor Carl Bonde and bore him five children, all the while accompanying him on trips to, among other places, Finland and England. He died in 1699. Maria Gustava Gyllenstierna was a widow for nearly forty years, during which time she devoted herself to her writing at Tyresö Castle just outside Stockholm. Translations from German and French made up a large part of her literary output.