Tvinga verkligheten till innebörd : studier i Kjell Espmarks lyrik fram till och med Sent i Sverige

Translated title of the contribution: Force Reality into Meaning : Studies in the Poetry of Kjell Espmark up to Sent i Sverige

Daniel Sandström

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Since his1956 début Kjell Espmark (b. 1930) has played a seminal part in Swedish post-War literature as both a poet and a novelist, and as an academic. To this date Espmark has written a dozen books of poetry, several novels, and has published highly influential works on Modernist poetry. Espmark's poetry is generically heterogeneous, and although Espmark's first collections of poetry were published in the fifties, his poems are not characteristic of that fairly romantic decade. Rather, when it's not reminiscent of the Modernist poetry of the forties, Espmark's early work anticipates the radical, cultural criticism of the sixties. However, Espmark’s refusal to abandon high Modernism and Symbolism prevents categorizing him as the quintessential poet of the sixties as well. The aim of this dissertation is to present an extensive study of the poetics of Kjell Espmark's poetry from the years 1948 -1975. The dissertation is divided into two sections. The first ranges from 1948 - 1961 and is labeled "The loss of reality", a heading that covers the main theme of Kjell Espmark's early poetry: the loss of an established reality, and the attempt to control something of the ensuing chaos in the form of poetry and literature. The first phase in Espmark's writing will be termed a version of "fictionalism". The second section of the dissertation is devoted to Espmark's first mature work, the trilogy Sent i Sverige (Late in Sweden). This trilogy includes the collections Det offentliga samtalet (The Public Conversation) Samtal under jorden (Conversation Underground) and Det obevekliga paradiset, (The Unrelenting Paradise), published respectively in 1968, 1972, and 1975. In the trilogy the poet is consumed by the question of how to release the individual from the constraints that are characteristic of modern life. This second phase of the authorship could very well be "anarchistic" or "iconoclastic". Here, modern societal life is seen as a kind of unequal conversation, a discourse in which the mighty few are rendered subjects, and the many are subjected into objecthood. The public conversation is consequently devised as a form of barter; you can access meaning and become part of social life, if you are willing to give something up of yourself in return. And what is given up most often is concrete, sensual life lost under the dominion of the abstract letters of the conversation. The poet's way of protesting comes as a form of annihilation of the self. When the poet has evacuated himself from his poem, another less oppressive conversation can come into being; the conversation between text and reader.
Translated title of the contributionForce Reality into Meaning : Studies in the Poetry of Kjell Espmark up to Sent i Sverige
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Comparative Literature
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2002 Dec 14
ISBN (Print)91-970946-1-7
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2002-12-14
Time: 10:15
Place: Edens hörsal

External reviewer(s)

Name: Mortensen, Anders
Title: F D
Affiliation: Lund University


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • Allmän och jämförande litteratur
  • literary theory
  • literature criticism
  • General and comparative literature
  • tradition
  • alienation
  • Gunnar Ekelöf
  • Epiphany
  • symbolism
  • T.S Eliot
  • post-War poetry
  • existentialism
  • litteraturkritik
  • litteraturteori
  • Scandinavian languages and literature
  • Nordiska språk (språk och litteratur)


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