Nya kvinnor och ny samhällskritik : en feministisk läsning av Anne Charlotte Lefflers Tre komedier
My essay is about the latter period of Anne Charlotte Leffler’s authorship. In Part I of my essay, I describe her path from the 1880s, where she described femininity as a shortcoming, as writes Ingeborg Nordin-Hennel, towards the 1890s and towards describing femininity as a possibility. This development took place on two levels – on an outer level, where all the woman writers in the late 1880s were influenced and where they were pushed out by the male writers, and on an inner level with Leffler herself.
Her late literary works depict new and more independent types of women, and eroticism is given a more prominent position. In Part II, I study Tre komedier (Three Comedies) which was published in 1891 and which includes the plays Den kärleken (Love is Strange), Familjelycka (Family Happiness), and Moster Malvina (Aunt Malvina). In my opinion, they are early expressions of the New Woman fiction. For my analysis, I use the criteria of genre for the New Woman fiction that is defined by Ebba Witt-Brattström. New Woman fiction is a lost link between the literature of social protest of the 1880s and female modernism. That characterizes, among other things, a new type of woman, who is intellectually and sexually aware. The plot is often contradictory and open-ended which allows scope for interpretation. The protagonist usually has a girlfriend or another woman, whom she can use as a mirror, and there is a new women’s “sistership” emerging, and the urban setting is yet another characteristic. The protagonist often stays at a boarding house or is out on a journey. The new male character is a weakling as opposed to the bourgeois masculinity. These features are distinct in Tre komedier. However, I have discovered a few more criteria.
I also discuss how Leffler, in the comedic form, delivers a pronounced criticism of society. In Tre komedier, the bourgeois matrimony, the bourgeois family, and the treatment of unmarried women are focused upon and criticized. The three plays differ very much from one another in the dramatic forms. Lynn R Wilkinson considers that they are among the first modernistic comedies, and they point forward to authors such as Wilde, Shaw, and Chekhov.
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