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This chapter examines Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg’s Engelsfors trilogy, including the novels Cirkeln (2011; The Circle 2012), Eld (2012; Fire 2013) and Nyckeln (2013; The Key 2015). This trilogy, focusing on Swedish teenage witches, combines supernatural Gothic with critical social realism, and highlights the flaws and failures of the welfare state from a number of teenagers’ points of view. It places the story in a particular Swedish geographical and historical setting, while at the same time employing Gothic themes and motifs that have earlier been used in 1990s’ American films and TV series. The chapter explores the use of multiple focalisation, Gothic plot elements, the place of witchcraft, the school as a Gothic location, doppelgängers and divided selves and the attraction and dangers of the witches’ powers. Despite the elements that it shares with certain American Gothic productions, the trilogy is a distinctly Nordic Gothic production in that it manages to create a plural protagonist and in the ways in which the geographical and gloomy social setting are used to tie the Gothic elements to particular historical contexts.
This chapter investigates the two most influential examples of contemporary Nordic Gothic, Lars von Trier’s TV series Riget and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Låt den rätte komma in and its Swedish film adaptation together with the American adaptations of these Nordic works: Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital (ABC 2004) and Matt Reeves’ Let Me In (2010). The chapter first briefly discusses Gothic TV and TV horror and outlines how von Trier, King and Lindqvist have moved between different media. It then goes on to examine some differences between the Nordic and American productions that are related to Gothic humour. In terms of setting, the American adaptations are placed in small American towns rather than the central locations constituted by the Danish capital in Riget and the Stockholm suburb in Låt den rätte komma in. Whereas the American adaptations thus pertain to King’s brand of small-town American Gothic, the Nordic works can be seen as a kind of urban Gothic. The settings, the chapter suggests, also make visible ideological differences between the Nordic Gothic works and the American adaptations.
This chapter presents two important forerunners to contemporary Nordic Gothic, Danish Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) and Swedish Selma Lagerlöf (1858–1940). The chapter sketches their different literary and historical contexts and touches on translations and adaptions of, or contemporary references to, their Gothic stories and novels. The first part of the chapter then focuses on Gothic elements in Andersen’s fairy tales ‘Den lille Havfrue’ (1837; ‘The Little Mermaid’), ‘Snedronningen’ (1844; ‘The Snow Queen’) and ‘De vilde Svaner’ (1838; ‘The Wild Swans’), and briefly relates the first two to the Disney adaptations of those two tales. The second part of the chapter examines folklore, fin-de-siècle and provinciality in the novel Gösta Berlings saga (1891; The Saga of Gösta Berling). The short stories ‘De fågelfrie’ (1892, ‘The Outlaws’) and ‘Stenkumlet’ (1892, ‘The King’s Grave’) are also briefly discussed as examples of Lagerlöf’s use of the forest as Gothic setting.
Nordic Gothic traces Gothic fiction in the Nordic region from its beginnings in the nineteenth century with a main focus on the development of Gothic from the 1990s onwards in literature, film, TV series and new media. The volume gives an overview of Nordic Gothic fiction in relation to transnational developments and provides a number of case studies and in-depth analyses of individual narratives. The book creates an understanding of a ubiquitous but hitherto under-researched cultural phenomenon by showing how the Gothic narratives make visible cultural anxieties haunting the Nordic countries and their welfare systems, and how central these anxieties are for the understanding of identities and ideologies in the Nordic region. It examines how figures from Nordic folklore and mythology function as metaphorical expressions of Gothic themes, and also how universal Gothic figures such as vampires and witches are used in the Nordic context. The Nordic settings, and especially the Nordic wilderness, are explored from perspectives such as ecocriticism and postcolonialism and subcategories such as Gothic crime, Gothic humour, troll Gothic and geriatric Gothic are defined and discussed. Furthermore, the phenomenon of transcultural adaptation is investigated, using the cases of Lars von Trier’s Riget and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Låt den rätte komma in, two seminal works of contemporary Nordic Gothic.
Making Home explores the orphan child as a trope in contemporary US fiction, arguing that in times of perceived national crisis concerns about American identity, family, and literary history are articulated around this literary figure. The book focuses on orphan figures in a broad, multi-ethnic range of contemporary fiction by Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Safran Foer, John Irving, Kaye Gibbons, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Toni Morrison. It also investigates genres as carriers of cultural memory, looking particularly at the captivity narrative, historical fiction, speculative fiction, the sentimental novel, and the bildungsroman. From a decisively literary perspective, Making Home engages socio-political concerns such as mixed-race families, child welfare, multiculturalism, and racial and national identity, as well as shifting definitions of familial, national, and literary home. By analyzing how contemporary novels both incorporate and resist gendered and raced literary conventions, how they elaborate on symbolic and factual meanings of orphanhood, and how they explore kinship beyond the nuclear and/or adoptive family, this book offers something distinctly new in American literary studies. It is a crucial study for students and scholars interested in the links between literature and identity, questions of inclusion and exclusion in national ideology, and definitions of family and childhood.
This chapter introduces and defines the concept of ‘Nordic Gothic’ as fiction produced in the five nation states of Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and in the regions claimed by these nations. The chapter observes that the geographical and linguistic borders that these states denote have changed greatly during the past 200 years, and that this has been important to the rise of Gothic. The introduction furthermore notes that, since the 1990s, there has been a significant Gothic boom across several media in the Nordic region. It is argued that this boom needs to be understood both in its relation to other regional contexts and in relation to the concept of Nordic Noir. Finally, the introduction describes some of the work that has been done on Nordic Gothic and provides the reader with an outline of the chapters that follow.
This chapter situates the study in both literary and socio-historical contexts, focusing on earlier discussions of the American orphan figure in literary and social history and elaborating especially on literature as cultural memory. The chapter traces the central position of orphans in nineteenth-century American literary history as it has been constructed in the twentieth century; orphans have played major roles in a dominant white male tradition in criticism, but also in gendered and ethnic challenges to that tradition. Previous critical discussions of orphans typically focus on children’s literature, or on nineteenth-century literature, but nevertheless offer useful insights into the historically shifting roles and cultural work of orphan characters, linked to social and political developments in the US. The chapter also addresses ideas of the orphan, childhood, and family, and how these ideas operate in social and academic debates over multiculturalism, the US canon, and national belonging.
This chapter offers analyses of African American orphans in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling (2005), Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (1991), and Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (2008). These writers employ genres such as the vampire novel and the historical novel of slavery to move beyond established paradigms of the modern black family. A transnational tendency affords a different inflection on questions concerning home, family, and nation; these novels also imagine feminist, queer, and multicultural forms of kinship that move beyond the nuclear family. However, these forms of kinship are not presented in exclusively utopian terms, for the novels explore the limitations as well as the possibilities of non-normative kinship and transracial, and even trans-species, adoption.
This chapter focuses on John Irving’s The Cider House Rules (1985), and Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster (1987) and The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster (2006), novels that remember earlier American and English novels to revise the conventions of the bildungsroman and challenge its conventional gender boundaries. In the process, the novels describe the kinship building of the protagonists, who develop complex understandings of kinship ties and a consciously affirmative stance on the value of “alternative family.” Because they are orphans, Irving’s and Gibbons’s protagonists are outsiders, but because they are white they may still lay claim to the dominant formulation of American identity; and the challenge they launch against the nuclear family ideal may be effectual precisely because they occupy a position of racial privilege.
This chapter examines contemporary novels featuring white orphans that engage intertextually with the Euro-American canon, claiming a type of literary kinship, at the same time as they draw upon a feminist counter-tradition as a form of recovered cultural memory: Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping (1981), Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days (2005), and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005). The chapter scrutinizes the particular processes that white orphan characters are involved in – processes of inclusion, exclusion, recentering, and critique – and argues that contemporary orphan stories renegotiate conventional gender divides in the American quest or picaresque, the bildungsroman, and domestic or sentimental fiction, for in these novels the trajectories of boy and girl orphans entail a repositioning in terms of gender and genre. In claiming literary kinship with earlier genres, they draw on cultural memory but also challenge central American myths.