Dygdens förvandlingar : Begreppet dygd i tillfällestryck till handelsmän före 1780
Sammanfattning: This dissertation deals with how the concept of virtue (dygd) is used in Swedish occasional poetry addressed to merchants before 1780. Occasional poetry was the major kind of literature in Sweden in the seventeenth and the eighteenth century, and usually addressed to the nobility and other dominant groups. As a part of the elites’ conspicuous consumption, and mainly aimed to demonstrate the addressees’ virtue, it played an important role in legitimising the social and political dominance of the elite. Merchandise, however, was regarded with moral suspicion.The main purpose of the thesis is to study the argumentative strategies the poets use to honour merchants, and to determine in what ethical traditions they have found the arguments to back up their reasoning. It is thereby possible to detect subtle changes in how they use the concept of virtue. These strategies and arguments are seen from a rhetorical point of view; the poets’ main purpose was to praise the tradesmen persuasively.The dissertation consists of three parts, dealing with, respectively, the period before 1650, the years 1670–1680 and the period 1770–1780. Each part is divided into three chapters: a brief presentation of the main ethical discussion of the period, a concise examination of the occasional poetry written for groups other than merchants, and an analysis of the argumentative strategies used in honouring tradesmen. The earliest merchant prints are constructed as defences rather than actual complimentary poems. Whereas the poems written for other addressees mainly make use of an Aristotelian concept of virtue, focusing on the services done for society and on the honour that follows from this, the merchant poems take a Lutheran law conception of ethics as their starting point. The key point is to claim that the merchant in question has not broken the Ten Commandments, or any other law belonging to man. Neither has he ever done any harm to his neighbours. In the 1670’s, this argumentative strategy is still abundant, but the poets also claim that the merchants have contributed to society, either through Christian charity or, with an allusion to mercantilism, by always trading with the aim of enriching their fatherland. In some cases, economic success in itself is regarded as a ground for honouring the merchant, the claim being that this was necessary for his charity, or by reference to the Lutheran ethics of calling or vocation. A main point is that the poets sometimes use the word virtue to describe these qualities, thereby in effect widening the concept itself. In the 1770’s, all earlier argumentative strategies are still used by the poets. In some cases, however, the texts consist in an attack on the Aristotelian concept of virtue. The poets argue that virtue is an inner, almost invisible quality having nothing to do with performing an occupation or belonging to a special social stratum. Instead they focus on sincerity as a quality essential to real virtue and as an important virtue in itself, thereby also claiming that virtue and glory could and should be separated.
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