Literature as Event and Action: The Performativity of Literature in Sweden 1800 - 2008
When Selma Lagerlöf appears in front of an audience to read from her work, the capacity of the literary text for interacting with and affecting its receivers is manifested. This is literature in the form of action and it is most clearly manifested in the performance, the event. The project writes the history of Swedish literature as events and actions, not primarily as meanings contained in it.
The planned project Literature as Event and Action: The Performativity of Literature in Sweden 1800-2008, intend to describe and analyse how literature is publicly performed in reading and song, either on stage or as mediated through radio or television. The project covers Swedish literature of the 19th and 20th centuries and approaches it from the less conventional angles of event and performance. When a late 20th-century poet such as Bruno K. Öijer appear in front of an audience and read from his work, they participate in what has been theorised by ethnologists as an event with its own peculiar trajectory where the interaction between performer and audience is central. It is this trajectory and interaction the project will explore by asking questions such as: What takes place? What results can be traced? More concretely,the project investigates the characteristic traits of particular events that determine their performative consequences. Consequently, the project is less interested in the inherent meaning of the literary text than in what the text does. Typical events, representative of different public spheres and historical moments have been selected, and thanks to the rich holdings of Swedish archives, the project covers the 19th century as well.The overriding aim is to describe how the performativity of literature (its potential for performance and performanz) has developed from the 19th century to the present,taking account of changes in society and media culture.