Artisten i vardagsrummet : Gränsöverskridande och samförstånd i det moderna genombrottets dramatik: Leffler, Benedictsson och Stéenhoff
Anne Charlotte Leffler, Victoria Benedictsson and Frida Stéenhoff were all part of the Modern Breakthrough in Swedish literature. By utilizing Jürgen Habermas theoretical works on communicative action, and Nancy Fraser’s supplementary reading of his theory, this essay makes clear that the authors’ struggle for an understanding and a rethinking of social norms in their plays Skådespelerskan (1873), Romeos Julia (1888) and Lejonets unge (1896) can be read as a contribution to the public debate. Dialogue has a key function for female authors during the Modern Breakthrough. Women and mens’ possibilities to take part in conversation and argument as equals, requires the professional woman’s transgression and access to the privileges of both public (State) administration – “system”, and world of everyday life – “lifeworld”. As oppositional authors, Leffler, Benedictsson and Stéenhoff took advantage of the literary public domain, in this case the theatre. The theatre as public sphere had a more effective capacity to affect its audience than fiction. The plays were written and staged in a cultural period that, compared with the present one, in a greater sense influenced public opinion. The theatre was a powerful part of the public debate, and this debate involved parties from both on-stage and off-stage positions.
At the theatre Leffler, Benedictsson and Stéenhoff turned the private into politics. Their powerful contribution to the public debate were directed specifically towards the bourgeois audience. They carried on a controversy concerning the notion of the bourgeois family by showing scenarios that raised objection to its idealistic point of view. The bourgeois living room was exposed on stage. Conflicts related to the private sphere were brought up as a theme in a public sphere and by so means were incorporated into the public debate, which at that time was dominated by men. The plays mirrored the audience and the authors’ strategies were based upon the remodeling power inherent in conversation and argumentation. Thereby, the audience were confronted with an alternated reflection of themselves. This reflection should be read as a problematic representation of the writing of history. The alternate mirroring brought in itself forward an argument that emphasized why a new reflection was necessary.
Skådespelerskan, Romeos Julia and Lejonets unge examine female artists in a bourgeois environment. Through the artist the structures that maintain bourgeois ideals are exposed and questioned, but first and foremost the artist show that communicative action between men and women was insufficient. The androcentric order did not acknowledge women and men as equals, in accordance with that, the possibility of conversation, in the sense of Habermas, came to nothing. Under such circumstances an understanding between men and women could not be reached. Love within the institution of marriage also suffered since it could not be founded in acknowledgement as long as the structure maintained. Saga and Adil, the main characters in Lejonets unge, personify, on the other hand, Stéenhoffs ideas of what is being needed to change the androcentric structure. They are citizens of the future.
My focus is on human action (in an Aristotelian sense) in the plays, the way characters stage themselves and bring the plot forward, shed light upon their possibilities and limitations in proportion to each other as men and women. My analysis thereby contrasts with the greater part of earlier research. I give prominence to the connection between psychological conflict and social position/role. In Skådespelerskan, Romeos Julia and Lejonets unge all of the characters’ psychological conflicts are based in gender issues, the consequences of being a man or woman in the 18th century, rather than explicit existential matters.
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