Welcome to the history of Nordic Women’s Literature

Here you can keep up to date with the latest currents in Nordic women’s literature, and at the same time become well acquainted with over one thousand years of women’s literary history in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and the Åland Islands – all in articles written by leading scholars.

We are now opening the door to the twenty-first century with articles on the work of six prominent writers: Sofi Oksanen and Monika Fagerlund from Finland, Hanne Ørstavik from Norway, Sara Stridsberg from Sweden, Audur from Iceland and Helle Helle from Denmark.

The six articles outline a picture of women’s writing post-2000 – by no means adding up to a comprehensive map, but nonetheless pointing out particular crests in a wide-ranging literary terrain. Along with illustrations by six contemporary women artists, the articles identify innovative currents that break fresh ground in the twenty-first-century Nordic region.

In 2016 we will be following up with fourteen new articles tracing central literary trends and themes of the new millennium.

All these freshly-written articles continue the work started in the print edition of Nordisk kvindelitteraturhistorie / Nordisk kvinnolitteraturhistoria (The History of Nordic Women’s Literature, volumes I-V), which was the result of an exceptional twenty-year pan-Nordic project; the final volume was published in 1998, and all five volumes were published in a digital edition – in Danish, Swedish and English – in 2012.

As in the original five-volume work, the new articles listen to women’s voices, but now from a millennial perspective acknowledging that gender cannot be viewed in isolation. In the literature of the twenty-first century, and thereby in this literature’s awareness of the world, other factors such as age, ethnicity and class play their role along with gender.

The Nordic region is a world leader as far as gender equality is concerned, but despite branding itself as a society in which equality has been officially implemented, there are still many challenges to be faced. Assessment criteria applied to literature written by women remain, in many contexts, different than those applied to literature written by men.

The Nordic Council Literature Prize shows with great clarity that the region is following an arduous and slow route towards equality. Up to and including 2014, the Nordic Council’s major award has been presented to, in all, forty-two men and twelve women. For nearly twenty years after the prize was launched in 1962, it was awarded exclusively to men, until 1980 when Sara Lidman was the first female recipient. The gender split became a little more balanced after 1992, with five women writers receiving the award since 2000 – including Sofi Oksanen and Sara Stridsberg, both of whom feature in the six new articles. However, if the Nordic Council and other influential institutions are to be aware of the diversity in Nordic literature, then scholars, reviewers and readers   must choose to point up that there is a large community of women writers at work. For that very reason we are turning the spotlight on women’s literature in a new millennium, and showing the extent and the originality of women writers’ contribution to the contemporary literary scene.

That women still have a long way to go in terms of receiving literary awards is also highlighted by the biggest international award, the Nobel Prize in Literature; so far, from a total of 111 laureates, only thirteen have been women.

And thus we hope that influential reviewers and steadfast readers everywhere are among the visitors to our site.

The History of Nordic Women’s Literature provides a unique opportunity to read about works written by women of earlier generations, writing which conventional literary history has at times overlooked. Albeit the works might have had a significant impact in their day, national literary histories have often disregarded these female voices and – because they are female – eliminated them from history. The History of Nordic Women’s Literature, volumes I-V, the History of Nordic Women’s Literature Online and the new articles provide some of the best and most significant pens in the Nordic region with a long life in the annals of literary history.


The site is designed for everyone interested in reading works of literature – students at school or in further education, teachers, researchers, scholars and journalists, and the general reader.

Join this video tour of the site:


  • Articles: Search among 235 articles, filter by country, period and keyword. Brief summaries provide a quick introduction to the individual articles.
  • Writers: View the site’s 821 writers on a timeline, or sorted alphabetically or by country and period.
  • Themes: The ten themes gather together articles and writers across time and place and demonstrate the range of perspectives and thematics represented on the site. Themes are intended to inspire, and will be useful for teaching purposes, or as a resource for students.
  • User profile: Register as a user and save articles, and your personal notes, for later.
  • Recommendations: If you find something particularly inspiring, share it with other users by sending us an email about it.


You will find analyses of major, well-known writers as well as minor and lesser-known ones. There are also survey articles introducing a period of literary history, or turning the spotlight on specific themes and trends in genre at various points in history.


The site holds biographical data on each featured writer, information on her works, and selected further reading about the writer and her literary output.


The six new articles are illustrated by innovative contemporary artists, as well as portraits/photographs of the writers. All other illustrations on the web site are taken from the print work, and are published with permission from the respective owners, museums, and institutions. The illustrations encompass everything from postcards, photographs, drawings, and etchings to oil paintings by well-known artists. They stand as an independent, but nonetheless enriching, comment on the articles, and testimony to one thousand years of women’s cultural history.


The online version of the original History of Nordic Women’s Literature, volumes I-V, was made possible by joint funding from the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the Danish A.P. Møller & Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation.

The articles published online in 2014 have been made possible by funding from the Danish A.P. Møller & Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation and the Nordic Culture Fund.