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Project D11

Young Heroes of the Postheroic: Negotiating the Heroic in Scandinavian Young Adult Literature after 1945


Prof. Dr. Joachim Grage
Sotirios Kimon Mouzakis

Scandinavian Seminary

Welfare states in continental Scandinavia were established in the second half of the 20th century in order to avoid extreme situations on the personal level through precautionary measures and also to make excessive actions of individuals unnecessary by means of communal solidarity. Nevertheless, heroic figures and heroic behavioral patterns are ubiquitous in the literature and cultures of postheroic Scandinavian societies. Especially in realistic young adult literature which – similar to children's literature after 1945 – has been largely detached from moral teachings and gender-specific roles alongside personal autonomy, there is a certain tension that has developed between the reality of living in a welfare state and the heroic as well as between the creation of social boundaries and individual breaking of these rules. This project aims to show how heroism has been prohibited and sanctioned in society (e.g. Peter Pohl, Janne, min vän, 1985); while in other texts, the welfare state has become a danger for the protagonist, from which one can only be freed through heroic action (e.g. Mikael Engström, Isdraken, 2007). These texts also mirror societal changes such as cultural hybridization through immigration, the changing of gender roles, a growing acceptance of homosexuality or the eroding of societal solidarity in the course of crises affecting the welfare state. At the same time, these texts take part in these changes which they narratively form, encode into societal discourse and about whose possibilities and boundaries involving individual actions they discuss in the frame of the heroic.

The dissertation project looks into the time frame from 1985 to the present. Beginning with the crisis of the welfare state, the challenges brought about by societal changes are researched using relevant young adult literature.