Late-modern children’s literature and young adult fiction in the Nordic countries is bold, vibrant and diverse. Questions surrounding gender, sexuality, identity and the body play a large role and offer children and young adults alternatives to (existing) gender stereotypes. Examples of female authors who have innovated children’s literature and young adult fiction are Dorte Karrebæk, Lene Kaaberbøl, Inga Sætre, Pija Lindenbaum and Anna Höglund.
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.
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.
In Greenland and the Sami Language Area, women’s modern literary production began with the political trends in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Greenland and northern Scandinavia were discovered as regions, and the Greenlandic and Sami peoples began to view themselves as ethnic minorities: no longer must they feel inferior to the dominating cultures, now the people’s own voice should be heard in its own language.A new generation of writers emerged in protest against the cultural invasion of the Danes, the Norwegians, and so on, and the women also got involved. This was the same period as the decade of the women’s movement. Women writers in Greenland, Kalaallit Nunaat, and the Sami Language Area, Sápmi, made their entry on the literary stage.
A feeling that time is just passing by, and a longing for freedom, love, and a language that can contain life’s and the ego’s many sparkling facets makes itself felt in many texts by debut authors of the 90s. The poetry of the 1990s does not lament the loss of meaning or identity, or make the body an ultimate point of reference, but seeks glimpses and identity in movements and by changing direction.The literature of the 1990s primarily perceives life and the formation of meaning as transformation or movement. And it is in a movement around a female character that the ego is staged, with its entire baggage of pain, loneliness, longing, self-destruction, irony, and humour. The ego is invented, explored, thinks, or is present as a textual energy in the narrative or poem.The many young writers who made their debuts in the 1990s have become the object of much attention.
The New Women’s Forum of the 70s
Modernism and Women in post-war Norwegian Poetry
Sweden was the first among the Nordic countries to allow women access to a university education. Female students ostensibly lived under the same conditions as their male counterparts: they shared ideas, instructors, visions of the future. In reality their situations could not have been more at odds. Men were the beneficiaries of longstanding traditions and the innate right to public support. Like extraterrestrial creatures, women found themselves in an alien world. Women asked themselves whether they should try to blend in and focus on what they had in common with men or accentuate their own special qualities. In the 1880s and early 1890s, any term or concept suggesting that they somehow deviated from the norm was scrupulously avoided. Just before the turn of the century, they switched strategy, placing ‘femininity’ in the spotlight and adding the notion of ‘difference’ to their repertoire. The tide turned in 1896, the year Ellen Key published Missbrukad kvinnokraft (Misused Female Power). Demands for emancipation and equal opportunity were supplanted by the concept that women should enrich society and culture with their unique qualities. Love and emotional liberation took centre stage. Women acquired a fresh sense of dignity, as well as new responsibilities, by virtue of their gender. And the women academics of the time did not remain unaffected.
Ragnhild Jølsen’s life and writing is marked by the tension between her rural home village and the bohemian milieu in the capital city, between robust popular traditions and aesthetic sophistication. From her very first publication in 1903, she was welcomed as remarkably mature, unusually gifted, and singular. But her “brutal, raw power” and “blatant, intensely erotic scenes” led many to believe that the author must be a man.Her books are concerned with a type of woman who is beautiful, vulnerable, and sensual, and whose mind vacillates between dream and reality. She broke sexual taboos and courageously showed that she saw body and mind as a whole package. Her literary output is a long way from the bourgeois, earnest, and everyday approach that characterised Norwegian literature in the early decades of the twentieth century. The sensitive, perceptive and the fantastical, exaggerated were key elements in her books and continued to be so.