Cosmopolitan Ideals and National Literatures in Early 20th Century Sweden, Finland and Estonia
Katarina Leppänen's project "Cosmopolitan Ideals and National Literatures in Early 20th Century Sweden, Finland and Estonia" engages in a region that has been largely invisible, and thus undertheorised, in contemporary research on transnational literatures, thus emphasising Europe as one culture with a few large languages (Dainotti). The unifying theses for the project are threefold. Firstly, a perspective from northeastern Europe will offer a theoretical and geographical diversification in analyzing world literature. Secondly, the function of vernacular in nation-building and identity formation is analyzed conceptually (what meaning is given to ‘the people’, ‘origin’, ‘language’) in the area where language connected to power—Russian, Swedish, Baltic-German vs. Finnish, Estonian (Koistinen; Melkas; Anttila). Thirdly, by synoptic investigation of the three countries in the project will study how vernaculars were activated for political purposes. A preliminary hypothesis is that differences, such as independence, colonial power relations, or the development of vernaculars, are trumped by similarities in relationship to Europe as a rather distant center of power (Lyytikäinen).
Contemporary divisions of Nordic/Baltic are, to an extent, arbitrary (Cornis-Pope). Transculturality, and a “‘culture-sensitive stance’ (Nünning 2006: 43), allowing for differences between literatures of heterogeneous cultures, will be used as a method to analyze a selection of novels written in the vernaculars, which explicitly or implicitly activate language and nationality for political purposes. Novels are here seen as a way to concretize abstract concepts and debate possible identities. To the extent that literature is co-productive in the history of the nation, then the idea of world literature must be connected to the quest for a possible world history (Stuchtey, Arnason).