Hymns and scornful laughter – forms of power in Finland-Swedish literary reviews in the 1920s and 1930s with focus on authors Jarl Hemmer and Elmer Diktonius

Kristina Malmio

Abstract


My paper examines how literary reviews perform not only aesthetic but also social power. In the 1920s and 1930s a quite offensive aesthetic struggle between the traditionalist and the modernist authors took place within the Finland-Swedish literary field. I analyze the ways in which the traditionalist writer Jarl Hemmer (1893-1944) and the modernist Elmer Diktonius (1896-1961) reviewed each other’s works in the 1920s and 1930s (altogether 6 reviews). While Diktonius reviews of Hemmers works are often extremely and obviously mocking and parodic, Hemmer uses quite, ironic understatements to question the works of Diktonius and his right to enter the literary field. One could say, that the first one screams, and the second one whispers their critical observations. I look upon the vocabulary and the stylistic strategies used by the authors to describe and evaluate the aesthetics of each other, but also how they portray each others as authors and at times even comment upon each other’s bodies. This way I grasp some of the practices used within the critical discourse by the time. I also show the significance of class within the Finland-Swedish literary field of the 1920s. The dominance of the upper class authors within the field has been observed, but no one has yet asked what the consequences of it are for the practices of the literary field and how it was, under the circumstances, actually possible for Diktonius with his very modest cultural and social points of departure to enter the field and to get a position within it? By taking a closer look at the power play exercised in the reviews I will be able to propose at least partial answers to the questions.

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