Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, Teilprojekt D11
Hebelstraße 25, Raum 02 006
Dissertationsprojekt "Postheroic Young Heroes"
The starting point of this dissertation project is the socio-political turbulence in Sweden during the 1980s which ensued in the rest of continental Scandinavia. The long established, well-functioning welfare system faced a crisis – most symbolic amongst other traumata the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme; the governments failed to maintain their people’s trust into the system. The once-proclaimed folkhemmet began to crack and has not since recovered fully. What followed was the rise of populist right-wing parties in the 1990s and a growing scepticism towards the state as the universal caretaker. Consequently, the individual has been forced to redefine his/her position vis-à-vis the collective as well as within society on his/her own terms.
These changes figure in the arts and literature and are very much still in the spirit of the Modern Breakthrough. Interestingly, it is Young Adult Fiction (YAF) that takes up these issues and negotiates them extensively, be it in the genre of fantasy, dystopia and utopia or – most noteworthy, and therefore central to this analysis – in Scandinavian sociorealistic literature, which has received global acclaim. Literature becomes a seismograph for political change – a dynamic reciprocity that requires a re-evaluation of standardised heroic images in postheroic Scandinavian societies. New heroes are created in response. Paradoxically, the popularity and need for heroes in this branch of literature is unabated. Two tendencies can presently be identified: Firstly, there are the cases where society sanctions transgressions provoking heroic (and as such: exceptional) behaviour of the individual as a liberating step out of problematic situations. The famously formulated Jantelov is challenged; the individual revolts against the social order and its own seemingly static role. Secondly, there are instances where the formalised welfare routine endangers the individual and his/her wellbeing, thereby forcing the adult to transgress set boundaries in order to find and defend his/her place in society, to re-establish the order that the state itself was disturbing, and not to yield to the authorities out of blind obedience.
In light of these observations, the aim of this work will be to identify the contexts in YAF, in which the heroic is most prominently found and is negotiated. How and where does literature position itself with respect to everyday political discourse, taking up heroes as figures of salvation? In which texts is the heroic in the focus of attention, and how is the heroic addressed, negotiated, and problematized? Which stance does Scandinavian YAF take towards the heroic, and how is it conveyed narratively? Which implicit and explicit intertextual references can be identified, and for what purpose? Finally, which function is attributed to these negotiations in connection to questions of pedagogy, education, and psychology?
I will follow these guiding questions and analyse a text corpus from roughly 1985 to 2015 from an interdisciplinary perspective, paying special attention to a historical and intercultural comparison to the rest of Europe.