Äta djävlar, föda ord : Om återkommande groteska motiv i Mikael Niemis romaner Kyrkdjävulen, Populärmusik från Vittula, Fallvatten och Koka björn
Sammanfattning: This essay deals with recurring grotesque motifs in Mikael Niemi’s novels Kyrkdjävulen, Populärmusik från Vittula (Popular Music from Vittula), Fallvatten and Koka björn (To Cook a Bear). It aims to widen the academic understanding of Niemi’s works by focusing on their aesthetics in relation to previous studies, which have mostly been concerned with placing Niemi in a context of Tornedalian minority literature. With the grotesque defined as monstrous and boundary breaking imagery that challenges common rational, ideological or moral world views, this study shows that these motifs can both strengthen, nuance and undermine postcolonial interpretations of the novels.Through Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the grotesque, emphasis is placed on the subversive and utopian aspects of the grotesque motifs. With the use of Sigmund Freud’s term the uncanny (das unheimliche) and Julia Kristeva’s term the abject, psychological and emotional aspects of the selected motifs are drawn to the surface. And, by turning to Sara Ahmed’s thoughts on emotions and performativity, the function of disgust in said motifs is examined. The grotesque motifs in question are: the degradation of the mouth, the lower animals, the boy with the knife, the witch mother, and the androgyne. The first part of the analysis shows that in Niemi’sworks the mouth is associated with storytelling, power, agency and the subject’s ability to both knowand express himself, but also to take the world into himself and be changed by it. The mouth is often degraded, which in a carnivalesque manner results in a linguistic revival. The second part of the analysis argues that lower animals, such as rats, reptiles and bat-like devil spawn, are symbols of the abject – that which man must cast out in order to exist. The motifs of the rats and devils are associated with themes of language, identity and writing, but also allude to a threatening feminine principle. In the third part of the analysis, the motifs of the boy with the knife, the witch mother and the androgyne are found to be juxtaposed to and interwoven with each other in narratives concerning gender, sexuality and coming of age. The results of the study show that Mikael Niemi utilizes grotesque aesthetics to give shape toprocesses of growth and change, captivity and liberation, and a complicated sense of identity that eludes clear and rational definitions. The grotesque in these novels is not purely utopian in a Bakhtinian sense, but more emotionally ambivalent. A determining factor to whether the grotesque image brings true renewal or only a repetition of past pain is the will and choice of the individual. Thus, Mikael Niemi’s novels speak not so much of the power of a minority identity, as of the power and potential of the individual to reinvigorate that identity. They form an individualized, existential project in a Tornedalian context.
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