Vid pornografins gräns: Erotik i svensk prosa 1819–2019

Translated title of the contribution: At the border of pornography: Eroticism in Swedish prose 1819–2019

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Transgressive sexual representations have long been a point of contention in Western societies. While some representations are easily disregarded as obscene, pornographic, smut, worthless or uninteresting, others disrupt established categorizations and are subject to heated debates. To map and understand the history of written, sexual representations in a Swedish context, I use the literature/porn dichotomy as an analytic model, with the border as a key metaphor, and, the concept ‘erotic literature’ to denote representations that are situated at the borderline between literature and pornography. Through chronologically structured historical chapters and in-depth case studies, I analyze the emergence and transformation(s) of the borderland between literature and pornography in Sweden 1819–2019; how the border takes shape in, and shapes, Swedish prose. Through the exploration of the border, I also outline a preliminary version of the history of erotic literature in Sweden. In the introductory chapter I argue that sexual representations navigate the border between literature and pornography through provocation and legitimization, and propose dual perspectives on pornography: as historically constructed, and, as a specific mode of narration. This provides me with a productive theoretical outset. I introduce historical contextualization as a method and the pornographic narrative – constituted by a pornographic logic and a pornographic code – as an analytical model, and present a framework for analysing legitimizing strategies.
The first part of the study maps the pre-history of pornography in Sweden and argues that Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s Murnis (1819) can be read both in relation to this pre-history and as indicative of the fact that a border between pornography and literature was emerging in Sweden. The second part of the study explores the growing fear of indecency during the 19th century and analyses how Anne Charlotte Leffler’s novel Kvinnlighet och erotik II (1890) navigated the border in this highly regulated literary climate. The third part of the study discusses the gradual liberalization that took place after the turn of the century and how the so-called ‘Pahlen novels’ (1930–1935) by author Agnes von Krusenstjerna utilized the emerging division between the artistic and the commercial realms to reach a newfound degree of provocation and sexual explicitness. The fourth part of the study charts the drastic liberalization in the post-war period that culminated in the decriminalization of pornography in 1971, and shows how Carl-Henning Wijkmark’s Jägarna på Karinhall (1972), in a breaking point between liberalization and re-regulation, used pornographic narration as a literary device to portray the excessive dynamics of fascism.
The fifth part of the study examines how erotic literature diversified after the decriminalisation and how written sexual representations became almost completely excluded from the concept of pornography. Through case studies of the short story anthologies Sex mäns lusta (1992) and Sex kvinnors lusta (1992), Kristofer Folkhammar’s Magisterlekarna (2015) and Helena Österlund’s Min sårbara kropp (2019), I show how erotic literature was constituted as a book market category, how pornographic narration became a device used in mainstream literature which destabilized the boundaries between different genres, and how identity became an important legitimizing strategy. In the concluding remarks I discuss the dialectical process between repression and liberation 1819–2019, how erotic literature can be regarded both as tradition(s) and as a mode of writing, and the larger implications of the study.
Translated title of the contributionAt the border of pornography: Eroticism in Swedish prose 1819–2019
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology
  • Zillén, Erik, Supervisor
  • Jonsson, Bibi, Assistant supervisor
Award date2022 Dec 2
Place of PublicationMalmö
ISBN (Print)978-91-986472-2-8
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 3

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2022-12-02
Time: 10:15
Place: H104, SOL, Finngatan 1, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Annika Olsson
Title: docent
Affiliation: Malmö universitet

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Literature Studies


  • 19th Century Swedish Literature
  • 20th Century Swedish Literature
  • Almqvist
  • Erotic Literature
  • Folkhammar
  • History of Sexuality
  • Krusenstjerna
  • Leffler
  • Legitimization
  • Literary History
  • Pornography
  • Prose
  • Provocation
  • Sexual Representations
  • Sweden
  • Transgression
  • Wijkmark
  • Österlund


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