Around the 2000s, the personal, once again, became political and a new generation of female poets has since been addressing the globalized, mediarised reality through themes such as gender, identity and the body.Through their poetry, connections are created between intimate, bodily affairs and global issues such as war and climate change as well as questions surrounding white privilege and the traces of colonialism. Among today’s female poets are Mette Moestrup, Aase Berg, Ida Börjel and Gerður Kristný.
A distinct Nordic atmosphere is at the centre of many literary works written after 2000. Snow, silence, darkness and the contrast between a cramped home and nature’s expanse are common features of the linguistic investigation of a female space. This imagery unfolds in the novels and poetry collections of authors such as, Johanna Boholm, Merethe Lindstrøm, Rosa Liksom and Christina Hesselholdt.
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.
Nordic novels in the 21st Century are filled with female detectives, gothic heroines and monsters. While the female protagonist in male authored narratives is often transformed into a destructive monster, female authors tend to draw upon supernatural features in order to thematise the female protagonist’s self-realisation and liberation from both the dominant gender contract and traditional family configurations. Leonora Christina Skov, Olga Ravn, Majgull Axelsson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir are among some of the main exponents of the gothic novel.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the so-called Nordic queens of crime and their femi-crime novels conquered the bestseller lists. In feminist-inspired crime fiction, gender roles are often reversed or presented as ambivalent and common themes include male violence against women, rape, child abuse, prostitution and trafficking. The most well-known queens of crime are, amongst others, Susanne Staun, Gretelise Holm, Anne Holt and Liza Marklund.
The relationship to the family, the mother, and to womanhood constitute the first of two main themes in the works of Auður Jónsdóttir (b. 1973). The second theme is the relationship between the Western master races and the emerging international working classes in the new millennium. While seemingly unrelated, these two themes have much more in common than one may initially think.
In the 1960s, the strong Icelandic ‘rímur’ (rhymes or ballads) tradition made way for a ‘free form’ modern poetry, which itself was part of an international revolution within poetic language. At the age of nineteen, Steinunn Sigurðardóttir appeared at the crossroads between modernism and the 1970s confrontation with modernism’s inaccessibility.Her authorship has received a lot of attention, and is characterised by a unique lightness and linguistic playfulness. The combination of isolation with a many-sided self, a theme that occasionally emerges in her poems and prose works, is the result of a reflection on time, its nature, and its transitoriness. In this way, a search for time goes hand in hand with a search for the self. Today, Steinunn Sigurðardóttir is a beacon of Icelandic literature. Her thematic concerns have been picked up by other Icelandic writers, including Vigdís Grímsdóttir and Álfrún Gunnlaugsdóttir.
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.
On Literary Sexual Politics in the 1930s
The few Icelandic women writers to appear around the turn of the twentieth century travel from the countryside to Reykjavík. But it is not contemporary Iceland that frames, in their literary works, their depiction of Icelandic women’s struggles of the modern age.They choose the past as a time frame, the journey back to the patriarchal farming community from which the contemporary identity conflicts and attempted exoduses spring. From this perspective, they thematise the conflicts between duty and freedom and the ambivalence concerning women’s new liberation.