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UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2007-2008

Seminar: 25 February 2008

Professor Horace Engdahl (more ... ). Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy (more ...) and UCL Visiting Professor UCL Department of Scandinavian Studies (more ...).

iterature and the Hunger for Tears: Lidner, Runeberg, Lagerlöf


In order to discover the inner logic of a text, we have to be affected by its emotional and aesthetical appeal. Whenever deep changes occur in the sensibility of readers and critics we are in jeopardy of loosing the ability to discern important aspects of literary form. One such example is the mode of perception that Hugh Blair called "the joy of grief". We no longer expect, and hardly tolerate, that serious writers play on the reader's desire to cry. And yet tears, today relegated to inferior genres, were for at least two centuries the ultimate proof of the effectiveness of a tale or a poem. I will discuss three Swedish classics that have captured their readers by satisfying the hunger for tears: Bengt Lidner, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, and Selma Lagerlöf. I will look at the means and motives of this literary strategy and its relation to the alternative and still surviving ideal of the sublime.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by [UCL Mellon Admin]

Book cover: Muamma

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imag: book cover, Federica  Mazzara

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