Det etiska projektet och det estetiska. Tvärvetenskapliga perspektiv på Lars Ahlins författarskap.

Translated title of the contribution: The Ethical Project and The Aesthetic. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Lars Ahlin's Fiction.

Helen Andersson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


As my title indicates, this dissertation is oriented towards two academic subjects: Ethics and Literature. Of late, the borderland between these two disciplines has attracted international scholarly attention. Within ethics, literary works are becoming a primary material; conversely, the study of literature has taken on ethical issues. As a result, the potentially referential character of fiction has increasingly been foregrounded. Ethics, has thus has been endowed with a new and important field of observation.

Accordingly, my study has a dual purpose: an ethical one, to examine to what extent fictive texts can serve as a basis for ethical reflexion; and a literary one, to offer an appreciation of the work of the Swedish novelist Lars Ahlin (1915-1997) through an ethical approach. My emphasis will be on Ahlin's late novel, "Din livsfrukt" (1987), considered as the conclusion and summation of his achievement. Ahlin's narratives provide exceptional examples of how a literary project can be ethically determined. This is particularly obvious in "Din livsfrukt" in which a first-person narrator, while writing his self and his story, enters into dialogue with other texts, philosophical and fictive, which are woven into an intertextual network emphasising fundamental existential and ethical issues.

My study is divided into three parts, the first of which provides a general introduction to the ways in which ethics and literary scholarship interact. Arguments for making literary fiction the material of, and basis for, ethical inquiries by virtue of its relevance to reality are marshalled. In the second part I argue in favour of an ethical approach as a complement to received literary perspectives on Ahlin's achievement while at the same time debating essential issues involving the interaction of ethics and literature and their relevance to this particular writer. Arguably, Ahlin's work can be seen as an aesthetic project with an ethical aim. The literary representation of this project grows out of an aesthetics in the service of ethics.

The main part of the dissertation, which has the form of a monograph, consists of a close analysis of "Din livsfrukt", an analysis whose starting-point is the ethical dimensions of the subject problem and which connects Ahlin's aesthetics with the ethical function of aesthetics. This function is intimately linked with what might be called a relational concept of the subject. The basic contradiction governing the novel is between the position of intersubjectivity and that of intrasubjectivity. The text breaks with the rules of fiction since fiction is not a goal in itself but a method subservient to ethics. This position makes for transgressions of traditional genre categories and allows of considerable freedom in relation to the traditions and rules of fiction. Thus, the book assumes the character of a hybrid. It deprecates the kind of aesthetic language that is not subservient to an extra-aesthetic existence; yet, at the same time maximum use is made of artistic language to express ethical problems. It is an artistic action which through its very lack of artistic accomplishment relativizes itself qua art, thus exhibiting its dual nature as both ethical an aesthetic action. Analogously, this dissertation, with its focus on the ethical implications of fiction, operates in the borderline between literary scholarship an ethics.
Translated title of the contributionThe Ethical Project and The Aesthetic. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Lars Ahlin's Fiction.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1998 Oct 10
ISBN (Print)91-7139-360-9
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1998-10-10
Time: 10:15
Place: Department of Art and Music, Biskopsgatan 5, Lund.

External reviewer(s)

Name: Kurtén, Tage
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Åbo, Finland.


The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Ethics (015017072)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ethics

Free keywords

  • Lars Ahlin.
  • Theology
  • the Other
  • responsibility
  • intrasubjectivity
  • intersubjetivity
  • intertextuality
  • referentiality
  • autobiography
  • aesthetics
  • fiction
  • Teologi
  • ethics


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