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Presenter: Kristin Järvstad, Associate Professor, GPS


In 1940s Sweden a “literature of preparedness” emerges, a literature which deals with the situation of national preparedness during the Second World War and expresses both loyalty to the nation and critique of the Swedish policy of neutrality. So far, this literature has been regarded as an exclusively male affair in Swedish literary history and research, something this article challenges by analysing a formerly unexplored material, novels by female authors and their representations of national preparedness and war from the same period. This article will discuss some of the subjects which can be found in these novels, all related, explicitly or implicitly, to the concept of the nation.

I will begin by giving a background to feminist theories on the nation, linked to femininity and masculinity, and then move on to studying the fictional portrayals of Swedes and Swedishness in relation to both gender and race.

After that I will turn to the novels which deal with the situation of Swedish-Jewish citizens and Jewish refugees, to discuss expressions of anti-Semitism in public and private surroundings in these texts, taking place both during and after the war.

Then I will turn my attention to the figure of the so called “German wench”, that is a female citizen in a country occupied by Germans who is having a sexual relation with a German soldier. This kind of relationship is pictured in a couple of novels and I will specifically discuss the punishment the fictional “German wench” is exposed to in the name of the nation. Finally, I will delve into the novels which picture transnational pacifism as the only alternative to nationalism, warmongering and (Nazi) dictatorship by focusing on two female protagonists who use lethal violence for a pacifist end. As a whole, this article aims to show that there is a lively and deeply engaged debate on issues connected to war and national preparedness among female novelists in 1940s Sweden, which in turn means that the definition of the so called literature of preparedness has to be revised and broadened, so that the key contributions of female authors to this literature, with their clearly formulated standpoints, often in relation to highly contested issues, can be included.

If you're interested in participating, please contact Johan Brännmark