Annika Mörte Alling

Researcher, Associate Professor


I am associate professor of French literature at the Centre for languages and literature, Lund University. I have been working there as a researcher and teacher since 1995, with responsibility for courses within French literature, language and translation at all levels. Most of my publications have dealt with the nineteenth-century French novel, from various angles: - the translation and reception of French literature in Sweden in the nineteenth century, - the "bovarysm" of Jules de Gaultier in novels by Stendhal and Flaubert, -"triangular desire" in Stendhal (doctoral thesis, 2003), - the problem of endings and closures in Balzac. Currently, I have two main areas of research: firstly, the dynamics between the vernacular and the cosmopolitan in the nineteenth-century French novel (see below, 1);  secondly, the role of emotion in the teaching of literature (see a case study below, 2).

1) The dynamics between the vernacular and the cosmopolitan in the nineteenth-century French novel 

The purpose is to study how the cosmopolitan/vernacular dynamic is represented in novels by Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert and Zola, at a thematic, intratextual level as well as in translations of the novels into Swedish and in their reception in Sweden. In these novels, the movement from the provinces to a more global milieu, primarily Paris, is fundamental. How is this movement represented in the novels and how do the protagonists deal with it? Paris is an important centre for art, literature and politics, a cosmopolitan city, with innumerable connections with a wider world. By studying this topic in widely spread novels from the nineteenth century, the project will reveal new aspects of these texts and of their reception. These revelations will also mean insights concerning the vernacular/cosmopolitan dynamic in general; in fact, the novels constitute representations of human and social structures, in local and global contexts — in the nineteenth century but, to a large extent, valid at all times.

The reception part of the study will focus on the Scandinavian countries, primarily Sweden, and mainly cover the last 20 years. In cases where reception studies already exist of the same texts in other parts of the world (Russia and the USA, for instance) and in the past, comparisons to these will be made. Several theoretical fields will be useful: narrative theory, world literature theory, translation and reception theories. Methods will consist of close reading of the novels and study of different types of reception: in Swedish press (that is by journalists), on the Internet (by a wide range of readers) and among students studying the novels within university courses. 

2) Emotion and narrative in literature classes: Swedish university students reading Le Père Goriot and Madame Bovary 

The role of emotions in our relation to literature is a research area in rapid evolution since the "affective turn” at the beginning of the 21st century, thanks to scholars like Patrick Colm Hogan (2011[i]), Suzanne Keen (2007[ii]), Martha Nussbaum (2001[iii]), Jenefer Robinson (2005[iv]) and Jean-François Vernay (2013[v]).

Despite this fact, there is little room for emotion in literature courses at the university today. Traditionally, affects do not belong in the academic world, are not seen as compatible with science, the domain of objectivity. We have few teaching hours at our disposal and a large mass of content to put into them. There is little time for discussions about the role of literature in our lives and about how it affects us emotionally and existentially. This is somehow paradoxical; is the very reason why we need literature not because it engages and enriches us emotionally? In other words, is it not the case that this emotional relation to literature is absolutely essential?

A point of departure will be the ongoing theoretical discussion about the crisis within education and about how to recreate a passion for literature among teachers and students in the teaching process. These problems are treated for instance in the studies by Antoine Compagnon (1998[vi]), Tzvetan Todorov (2007[vii]), Yves Citton (2007[viii]) and Vincent Jouve (2010[ix]), and more recently by Jean-François Vernay (2013[x]), Raphaël Baroni and Antonio Rodriguez (2014[xi]).

One way of succeeding with this task is to create an atmosphere in the classroom where students dare to express themselves more freely about their emotional relation to the texts studied. This is a central thesis in the two last publications and I would like to examine it further. How could such an atmosphere be created? When should a more distanced and critical reading be introduced? How is it possible to assess the students' performance when they express emotions?

The study will partly be based on discussions with students of French during their second term at Lund University in Sweden. Thus my approach is rather "practical". I will also discuss the results of a written survey among students having read Le Père Goriot by Balzac and Madame Bovary by Flaubert.


[i] Affective Narratology: The Emotional Structure of Stories, University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

[ii] Empathy and the Novel, Oxford University Press, 2007.

[iii] Upheavals of thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[iv] Deeper than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art, Clarendon Press, 2005.

[v] Plaidoyer pour un renouveau de l’émotion en littérature, Éditions Complicités, 2013.

[vi] Le Démoin de la théorie, Seuil, 1998.

[vii] La littérature en péril, Flammarion, 2007.

[viii] Lire, interpréter, actualiser. Pourquoi les études littéraires?, Éditions Amsterdam, 2007.

[ix] Pourquoi étudier la littérature, Armand Colin, 2010.

[x] Pladoyer pour un renouveau de l’émotion en littérature, Éditions Complicités, 2013.

[xi] Les passions en littérature De la théorie à l’enseignement, Université de Lausanne, n° 295, 2014.


Recent research outputs

Annika Mörte Alling, 2018 Sep 10, In : French Studies. Volume 72 , 3, July 2018 , 1 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview (Book/Film/Exhibition/etc.)

Annika Mörte Alling, 2018, In : Tidskrift för litteraturvetenskap. 2018, 1-2, p. 72-81

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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