Den moderne Ivar Lo-Johansson: Modernisering, modernitet och modernism i statarromanerna

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation examines the modernity of the Swedish proletarian author Ivar Lo-Johansson (1901-1990), as manifested in the so-called 'statare' novels: Godnatt, jord (Breaking Free, 1933), Bara en mor (Only a Mother, 1939), and Traktorn (1943). The dissertation examines, on the one hand, modernisation and modernity as the topoi of these novels, and on the other, how the author relates to the literary tendency that has come to signify the aesthetic modernisation of the 20th century, i.e. modernism. The theoretical basis of the dissertation is Marxist. The primary source of inspiration has been the model for a Marxist hermeneutics presented by Fredric Jameson in The Political Unconscious, comprising three levels of textual interpretation: the text is read, first, as an historical allegory, and second, as a statement within a class-related discourse, and, finally, in relation to the transformation of the modes of production. The accounts in the novels of modernisation and modernity are first close read and then studied in a historical context. Then the aesthetics of the novels are related to modernism. The account of modernisation and modernity in the novels is found to be fundamentally embracing, even if the negative or threatening aspects of modern society are never downplayed by the author. This position is founded in Lo-Johansson’s socialist outlook, according to which the labour movement guarantees the fulfilment of modernity’s utopian promises and avoidance of its dangers. This view is expressed by Lo-Johansson in a critical dialogue with other contemporary accounts, literary and non-literary, of modernity and modernisation. This dialogue is examined historically with the aid of Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of dialogue and Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, as interpreted by Raymond Williams and other Marxist critics. First, Lo-Johansson's relationship to other literary responses to modernity and modernisation – mainly primitivism and socialist realism – is examined. Then, the 'statare' novels are related to non-literary modernist discourses, such as the ideology of the social democratic welfare state and the ideas about the new woman and the new youth. The description of the relation between the aesthetics in the 'statare' novels and modernism is focussed on the term 'social modernism'. This term was coined by Michael Denning and it signifies an attempt to redirect modernist aesthetics away from the abandonment of political, avant-garde ideals as well as the celebration of artistic autonomy, by establishing contacts with extra-literary movements who aim for a change of society. Avant-gardist and social modernist ideas were propagated in Sweden in the interwar period by socialist critics such as Ture Nerman and Arnold Ljungdal. That Lo-Johansson embraces similar ideals is showed in an analysis of three constitutive components of the aesthetics of the 'statare' novels: polyphony, facticity, and the grotesque. These stylistic traits are placed within a modernist context through comparison to the social modernist American documentarism of the 1930s , as well as to different examples of experimental modernism, such as the American non-fiction novel and the nouveau roman.


  • Magnus Nilsson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • literature criticism, General and comparative literature, the grotesque, documentary, polyphony, Arnold Ljungdal, Ture Nerman, the new woman, D. H. Lawrence, Artur Lundkvist, Harry Martinson, primitivism, Raymond Williams, Mikhail Bakhtin, Fredric Jameson, Marxist criticism, avant-garde, social modernism, modernity, modernism, modernisation, Ivar Lo-Johansson, labour movement, socialist realism, Moa Martinson, proletarian literature, literary theory, Allmän och jämförande litteratur, litteraturkritik, litteraturteori, Scandinavian languages and literature, Nordiska språk (språk och litteratur)
Translated title of the contributionThe modern Ivar Lo-Johansson: Modernisation, modernity and modernism in the 'statare' novels :
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2003 Sep 27
  • Gidlunds förlag
Print ISBNs91-7844-633-3
StatePublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2003-09-27 Time: 10:15 Place: Edens hörsal, Paradisgatan 5, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Luthersson, Peter Title: Docent Affiliation: Malmö högskola ---