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.
With the Modern Breakthrough in the Nordic region in the 1880s, feverish female activity could be perceived everywhere. Women joined together in national women’s societies, working doggedly and energetically to put women’s issues on the agenda of the legislative authorities in order to ensure the implementation of laws. Writing in newspapers, journals, and literary works, it was young middle-class women – well-versed in languages, conversation, and good manners – who presented issues pertaining to women’s status as a social problem.Many women writers of the Modern Breakthrough experienced the new departure in the form of personal and artistic failure. They broke their backs or their pens on the modern paradox. But the emancipation project was not abandoned. For the women who continued to write for the rest of the century, and for those who made their debut around the turn of the century, the tension between ideals and disillusion, between movement and moment, was merely put in a different form.
Henrik Ibsen did not always go unchallenged. On the contrary, several of the women of the Modern Breakthrough felt provoked to correct or revise Ibsen’s original text, and time after time his portraits of women turn up in their plays and short stories, but rewritten on the basis of a different horizon of understanding. Two obvious examples from 1882 of such a female, partly subversive dialogue with Ibsen are Anne Charlotte Edgren Leffler’s short story “Tvifvel” (Doubt), and Alfhild Agrell’s play Räddad (Saved).These texts clearly show how Ibsen’s portrayal of women served as a challenge, a set piece that had to be tested and partly destroyed in order for the two female authors to arrive at a more credible story.
Fredrika Bremer has won respect as a personality, as a letter writer, and as a writer of travel accounts. But as soon as it comes to her novels, reservations usually begin to make their appearance. The only exceptions made are usually for Grannarne (1837; Eng. tr. The Neighbours) and Hemmet (1839; Eng. tr. The Home). With these books, she became one of the world’s most read novelists. No Swedish author, not even Selma Lagerlöf, has enjoyed as much success in the English-speaking world. Few Swedish authors have been translated into so many languages.All of Fredrika Bremer’s production may be read in the light of a Realist and a Romantic code. On the one hand, she examines the woman’s position in society, her right to education and personal development. On the other hand, she is preoccupied with the right of the inner life as opposed to the outer life and with the possibilities for passion, the female heart, and the female fire to overturn the existing state of things. It is not balance that constitutes Fredrika Bremer’s originality. Rather, it is the very agitation in the books that captures the reader. She was a passionate being – both as an intellectual and in her search for freedom.