Bringing Scandinavian E-Lit in from the Edges

Abstract (in English): 

For centuries, Scandinavia comprised the “ends of the Earth” to continental Europeans. As A. E. Nordenskiöld’s 1889 Facsimile-Atlas notes, “Until the middle of the 16th century…geographers took no notice of what was situated beyond lat 63° N….” (54). Today’s e-lit map might look similar. Although Scandinavia produces many creative e-lit works, a relatively small number of critics have investigated them. It is likely that Scandinavian e-lit eludes most e-lit scholars because Scandinavian languages are less familiar than English, French, German, or Spanish. However, there are also a number of excellent works of Scandinavian e-lit in English. This talk will highlight some of these, such as Anders Bojen and Kristoffer Ørum’s Radiant Copenhagen. Radiant Copenhagen is a closed-loop work that plays brilliantly with multiple timelines, incorporating visual and textual elements. The reader navigates a geomap of Copenhagen to read a multiplicity of articles about the capital city. However, the Copenhagen depicted in this work comes from the future – a grim future where the Danish language vanished years ago in favor of English, and people are selectively incinerated to increase the power output for the city! With tongue in cheek, the authors ask serious questions about current Danish socio-political policies, and what they will mean for the future of Danish society. Moreover, the authors created a meta-story by successfully duping the Danish press into reporting, as fact, one of the articles featured in Radiant Copenhagen. Though quickly withdrawn, the embarrassment brought publicity to the work, and sparked debate regarding the proper boundaries separating fiction from real life – especially in the public sphere.

If unfamiliarity with Scandinavian languages was the only barrier to widespread awareness of Scandinavian e-lit, then one would expect scholars and teachers of Scandinavian print literature to include Scandinavian e-lit in their scholarship and curricula. However, this is not the case. Scandinavian Studies programs in universities in the United States, for example, do not include any Scandinavian e-lit in their literature classes. In Scandinavia itself, Scandinavian e-lit is studied at a few universities, yet scholars and teachers are often housed in departments of linguistics, communications, aesthetics, or technology, rather than in departments of Danish, Norwegian or Swedish literature. It seems, then, that if critics and teachers of Scandinavian literature are to embrace e-lit, it will be because they first are aware it exists, and second, because they see relationships between Scandinavian e-lit and the classic Scandinavian print works with which they are familiar. Therefore, specific comparisons between e-lit and traditional, even canonical, printed works are vital. I will offer one such comparison between Radiant Copenhagen and Hans Christian Andersen’s first novel Fodreise; fra Holmens Canal til Ostpynten af Amager i Aarene 1828 og 1829 (“A Walking Tour from Holmens Canal to the Eastern Point of Amager in the Years 1828 and 1829”). With this talk, I hope to shine a spotlight on Scandinavian e-lit, and help to demonstrate the ease and benefit of incorporating e-lit into traditional literary scholarship and coursework.

(Source: ELO 2015 Conference Catalog)

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Hannah Ackermans