Kampen om högt och lågt. Studier i den sena nittonhundratalsromanens förhållande till masskulturen och moderniteten
Sammanfattning: The Struggle for High and Low Culture. Studies in the Late Twentieth Century Novel’s Relationship to Mass Culture and Modernity. It is a widespread opinion that the boundaries between high culture and mass culture have become less defined in our postmodern culture. How is the aesthetic exchange to be interpreted between cultural spheres – high and low respectively – long considered incompatible? What does this exchange look like in a concrete sense, and why is it being carried through? In my dissertation I discuss these issues in relation to novels by three Scandinavian high cultural authors, who have, each in their own way, entered into a dialogue with the popular and mass cultural: Jan Kjærstad, Peter Høeg and Kerstin Ekman. In chapter 1 I discuss important themes and issues, recurrent in the long debate, both theoretical and popular, about the relationship between high and low culture. In chapter 2 I analyse how the Norwegian author Jan Kjærstad, in Homo Falsus (1984), aesthetically shapes and critically comments on postmodern media culture by integrating its dominant media technologies. In chapter 3 Peter Høeg’s use of the crime fiction formula in Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (1992) is analysed. Høeg’s novel is put in relation to the extensive debate on the postmodern (anti-)crime novel within literary theory. I show how postmodern theory in fact reproduces those value hierarchies between high and low culture it set out to deconstruct initially. In chapter 4 I examine the Swedish author Kerstin Ekman’s connection with popular culture. Her early, “pure” crime novels of the 60s are discussed, as is her 1993 “comeback” to the genre, Händelser vid vatten. In the last chapter the dissertation’s complex of problems are widened to encompass a more extensive discussion on mass culture critique and modernity. Ekman’s novel Gör mig levande igen (1996) is at the centre of this chapter. I show how the reassessment of the relationship between high and low in this novel, as well as in the other novels I have studied, is primarily about a re-negotiation of fundamental and socially charged dichotomies in “the narrative” of modernity: between male and female, rational and irrational, centre and periphery. A central conclusion is that the fictional authors I have studied occupy a more open and searching attitude to mass culture than the theorists and critics. Another important conclusion is that a new understanding of the relationship between high and low is required, which captures its complexity and dynamics. Culture and literature are being renewed both from above and below. The categories high and low are both aesthetic and social. They are historical, and in constant motion. In today’s postmodern culture they are especially exposed to struggle and re-negotiation.
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