Reading Chekhov’s ‘The Student’
Reading short stories, Chekhov’s in particular, one is generally compelled to participate in creating them, by filling in blanks, and of one’s own accord supplying the information which the narrator seems to take for granted. In this article, ‘The Student’ (1894), one of Chekhov’s best known stories, is explored in detail regarding its remarkable lack of information. Has the title figure, a student of theology, really been out shooting on a Good Friday? And what is the significance of the curious sound – as from an empty bottle – described in the opening paragraph? The answers to these and other questions prove decisive to the interpretation of the story as such.
Odin's millennial crisis: Norse mythology and Nordic identities in Janne Teller's Odins ø and Cornelius Jakhelln's Gudenes fall
In this essay, I will discuss the use of elements from Old Norse mythology in two recent novels: Janne Teller’s Odins ø (1999) and Cornelius Jakhelln’s Gudenes fall (2007). In both works, the Norse god Odin is placed in modern, Nordic societies close to the millennial shift, raising questions and debate about (national) identity, history and memory in times of globalization and mass immigration. The works are read from a postnational perspective, in which Homi K. Bhabha’s idea of «writing the nation» serves as a theoretic starting point. Through several examples, I show how both novels deconstruct the idea of a national narrative, by letting pre-national (mythic), national and postnational narratives, symbols and imaginations collide into apocalyptic visions without fixed perspectives or closed endings. The essay also puts these two Nordic examples in the broader perspective of new world literature and migrant literature, in which the shape and content of the (national) self and history is constantly under debate.
Recognition and Authenticity in Life Writing
Life writing involves a number of ethical questions, not least when fiction writers use real people to fulfill their literary needs, insisting on the truth of what they tell while at the same time hiding behind the «just fiction» banner if they are confronted with uncomfortable questions about facticity and how their models are portrayed. To explore some of the moral issues that have a tendency to be defined as secondary to aesthetic prerogatives on the one hand and to freedom of expression on the other, this essay calls on philosophers like Axel Honneth, who argues that a fundamental prerequisite for a healthy identity formation is that we are recognized and respected by others, and Charles Taylor, who argues that cultivation of self must be balanced with an ethics of authenticity. Life writing thus implies questions of shame and honour, of recognizing or disrespecting «the other», of power and powerlessness and using people as mere instruments for self-realization. Examples illustrating the discussion are taken from Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle and other contemporary Scandinavian titles.
Racine’s beasts – the monster figure in Phèdre
This article focuses on the presence and the meaning of monsters in Racine’s play Phèdre. The sea monster emerging at the end of act five has been acknowledged as a baroque element challenging the otherwise perfect classicist drama. There are, however, more monsters to be studied in this tragedy. On the one hand, killing a monster is worthy only of a hero; on the other hand, being called a monster equals a death sentence. By analyzing the different occurrences of monsters, this article argues that the representations of monsters in Phèdre unveil a certain logic of their own that support the dramatic development of the play.