During the mid-1990s, a new genre of literature came to the fore, and was subsequently labelled chick lit. It was an updated version of the classic romance novel, embracing single life and dating culture in the big cities from a gender-perspective. With well-known titles like Sex and the City and Bridget Jones’ Diary as the leading examples, authors such as Henriette Lind, Lotte Thorsen, Kajsa Ingemarsson and Siri Østli have developed their own Nordic variety of chick lit.
Around the time of the millennium, a new generation of female Nordic authors had their debut. Their signature style was perfomative experimentation with a splash of humour and irony. The authors were building upon a gender-conscious literary tradition and taking inspiration from contemporary gender theorists such as Sara Ahmed and Judith Butler. Leading voices of this generation include Christina Hagen, Kristina Nya Glaffey, Mara Lee and Trude Marstein.
From the millennium onwards, the literary scene is populated with new voices that explore themes such as, racism, whiteness, gender, adoption and migration. What the authors have in common is the use of their minority position to reflect over the experience of having a linguistic and cultural double-identity. Maja Lee Langvad, Eva Tind, Athena Farrokhzad and Jonas Hassen Khemiri are among exponents of these new voices.
Helle Helle (b. 1965) was awarded a lifetime grant from the Danish Arts Foundation in 2010. The nomination letter stated, that she is “one of Denmark’s foremost interpreters of the middle classes and of the Danish provinces”.
With her debut collection, Indeni – udenfor (1967; Within – Without), Danish writer Kirsten Thorup succeeded in placing herself from the outset at the centre of the literary arena. Here and in her subsequent collections she explored the positions of alienation, powerlessness, and objectification in a markedly personal voice. With her remarkable novel Baby (1973) it became clear that Kirsten Thorup had something more to say. This novel was a stylised and compact prelude to a comprehensive body of contemporary literature that has made her one of the most widely read authors in Denmark.Kirsten Thorup presents us with an unmerciful and paradoxically loving portrait of the apocalyptic images that constitute contemporary culture.
The focus of women’s works shifted from the sexual aspects of motherhood in the 1930s to children as the targets of wanton violence during the war. The time had come, they thought, to manifest the responsibility for society that Fredrika Bremer and Ellen Key had posited as women’s contribution to civilisation. The focus had shifted, however, from pleading the cause of women to that of children.The focus on children and the social responsibility of mothers was the last attempt by modern women writers to launch a new ethic of human relations and envisage a political utopia of peace. The broad-based, multi-genre effort did not dissipate until the 1960s when motherhood was stripped of its revolutionary content and redefined as either autocratic or powerless. Female characters assumed the position of helpless children in relation to men, and militant mothers were relegated to the status of frustrated housewives.
A number of social and ideological features became prevalent in the European transition from eighteenth to nineteenth century – the establishment of the middle-class family as culture-bearing and the Romantic idealisation of woman as partly the mother of God and nature and partly the unconscious and alien aspect of the man’s humanness. These features contributed to a union of the previous periods’ female types, the housewife and the salon hostess, in the woman of the Romantic intimate sphere. In this way, Romanticism gave the woman a cultural position by virtue of gender alone – a position which she had not had before and would soon lose again. The Romantic intimate sphere was, unlike the salon, a home, but not therefore simply a (petit) bourgeois nuclear family. It was a community of the sexes, which would realise the Romantic philosophy and religious attitude to life. By absorbing and conveying inspiration from the wider European movement, women’s literature played a key role in structuring this new identity of the intimate sphere.
In the 1950s and 1960s a series of women writers took centre stage in Nordic literature. They stood forth as full-fledged modernists and they were greeted with ovations. They rewrite the isolation of modernism, but though they position themselves at the forefront of the literary stage, they place their literature at the service of the outsider.They write themselves into the tradition where the poet is a stranger on the outskirts of society, but they also place themselves outside this literary tradition and constantly butt their heads against its accepted definitions, symbols, and use of language. A common theme is the culturally marginalised, that which among post-war and even more among post-modernist philosophers has been defined as ‘the female’.
In the 1980s, the historical novel, a centuries-old favourite among female readers, underwent a process of serious revision. The female heroes were brought up to date. The heroines were adapted to the contemporary world, and together with the new romance literature, the new feminist historical novel captured the interest of women readers.New women writers throughout the Nordic region began to write about hidden, forgotten, overlooked, or entirely unknown women from past centuries, and the books were welcomed by huge audiences (and by reviewers) with such overwhelming interest that it began to look like just the genre for which they had all been searching for so many years.
Young adult fiction underwent dramatic changes in the 1960s and the following decades. New ways of depicting the experiences of young people were on display in the social-realist young adult fiction of the 1970s. In contrast to the older, often moralising literature, the modern young adult book breaks down both systems and taboos.No theme is off limits, and traditional gender roles, relationships to authorities, and social structures are criticised more and more openly. The points of view and sympathies of the new generation of writers are with the books’ young, often maladjusted and rebellious main characters, who are in discord with themselves and with the adult world around them.