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The Scandinavian Moment in World Literature (Scanmo) (completed)

The starting point for Scanmo is the phenomenon of Henrik Ibsen’s authorship and career, and the main ambition is to construct and scrutinise the premises from which an author from the periphery could rise to world literary status in the course of such a relatively short time.

Lady reading a book with bookshelves behind. Photo.

Scanmo will study the originating Scandinavian context of ‘the modern breakthrough’ and the making of Ibsen into world literature. Marilyn Monroe immersed in Arthur Miller’s adaptation of An Enemy of the People captures the range of our interests: books, reading, gender, translation, appropriation.

About the project

In the course of the last few decades of the nineteenth century, a significant Norwegian and, more generally, Scandinavian literature arose, and by the turn of the century the foremost contributions to this literature had already become world literature.

Such an ambition requires an interdisciplinary effort, most crucially between history and literary studies, and that we pay attention to areas which have traditionally fallen outside of the main fields of enquiry within these disciplines. The history of Norwegian literature has been dominated by biographical perspectives and by perspectives informed by the history of ideas.


One of the main claims within this tradition has been that the new and modern literature of the nineteenth century was fiercely resisted in Scandinavia, and that it was Ibsen’s break with Norway which created the preconditions for the writing of his so-called ‘social problem plays’.

A main hypothesis in our project is, contrary to this well-established narrative, that it is only possible to grasp the evolution of Ibsen’s authorship when he is understood as part of the emergence of a Danish-Norwegian literary field and within a specific constellation of culture and politics in Scandinavia in the 1870s and ‘80s.

The project will also study the mechanisms involved in the internationalisation of Ibsen’s plays, placing particular emphasis on the early English-language reception. We are convinced that a study of the Scandinavian wave within nineteenth-century European literature can supply important perspectives in the ongoing international discussions of world literature, not least in stressing the 
importance of the periphery.




University of Tromsø and University of Oslo

Tags: Scandinavian literature, Ibsen, English literature
Published Aug. 28, 2013 2:01 PM - Last modified Apr. 16, 2020 5:27 PM