Hemsökelser : Gotiken i sex berättelser av Selma Lagerlöf Hauntings : The Gothic in Six Short Stories by Selma Lagerlöf

by Wijkmark, Sofia

Abstract (Summary)

The topic of this thesis is the gothic fiction of Selma Lagerlöf. Its primary purpose is to investigate how Lagerlöf's work can be understood in relation to the gothic genre; what particular themes, motifs and formal aspects appear when making this connection and how they can be interpreted, as well as which literary and cultural contexts become relevant. The study is based on close readings of six short stories that, in comparison, appear to be some of the most gloomy and horrific in her production: "Karln. En julsägen" (1891), "De fågelfrie", "Stenkumlet", "Riddardottern och havsmannen" (1892), "Spökhanden" (1898) and "Frid på jorden" (1917). The gothic was an important feature of the literature of the last decade of the nineteenth century, when Lagerlöf made her debut. Therefore one of the main purposes of this study is to highlight her as one of the key writers of gothic fiction in Sweden by the time. In this context the gothic might be considered as closely related to the currents of decadence and fin-de-siècle. However, the gothic continued to be an important element throughout Lagerlöf's production, and this is illustrated by the inclusion of a story from a later period among the primary sources.

The gothic genre can be defined by certain themes and motifs, but also by its narrative strategies. The analyses of the six stories show how themes and composition are used to create an atmosphere of fear and darkness, but also, more importantly, to create a sense of ambiguity. The study also discusses the relationship between the gothic and the fantastic and special attention is paid to aspects such as the hesitation concerning how to interpret the supernatural, as well as the fragmentary bodies and psyches of the stories. The main themes of the six stories can be summarized as dealing with the haunting and return of the past, as well as the fear associated with the transgression of limits - between fantasy and reality, the civilized and the primitive, life and death and self and other. Central to the argument in this study is das Unheimliche - the uncanny - a concept that links a certain kind of fear to uncertainty, doubles, ghostliness and haunting. Sigmund Freud has described it as a paradox, as something terrifyingly strange and yet familiar at the same time. The gothic reproduces the experience of reality expressed by this concept - a sense that the self is the source of horror and that identity is something highly unstable.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Karlstads universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Aesthetic subjects; Literature; Selma Lagerlöf; the Gothic; Fin-de-siècle; the Uncanny; the Fantastic; the Double; Litteraturvetenskap; Comparative Literature


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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