Mads Nygaard Folkmann, Visionens mørkerøde frugt. Det imaginære i Stagnelius’ lyrik. (The Dark Red Fruit of Vision. The Imaginary in the Lyrical Poetry of Stagnelius.)
The aim of the article is to read the lyrical poetry of the Swedish Romantic author Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793–1823) in light of the concept of imagination dominant within European Romanticism. While more readily debated in England and Germany at the time, the concept appears in Sweden as well, namely, in the aesthetic journal Phosphoros. While Stagnelius doesn’t participate in the discussions of his time, his work (especially the lyrical poetry) displays an imaginary or phantasmagoric world of its own. To understand the ways and functions of this imaginary, the article argues that it is necessary to examine Stagnelius’ work as an expression of a poetic imagination, that is, how the imaginary world is created as and through poetic devices.
The article states three related concepts in order to analyze the poetic imagination in Stagnelius’s work, namely, internalization, unrealization, and transfiguration. The processes of internalization and unrealization should be understood as altering a relation to meaning through being formulated according to the premises of the speaking subject and placed in a productive distance to reality. The thesis proposes that Stagnelius, through the processes of internalization and unrealization, seeks a transfiguration of the given. In the texts of Stagnelius, this is often expressed through the discourse of religious salvation. Crucial, however, to the article’s understanding of the poetic imagination, is that transfiguration paradoxically becomes ‘real’ by remaining inside the space of the lyrical text. Paradigmatic for this structure of literary inversion is the famous poem “Endymion” (after 1821), in which the dreams of transcendence are ‘only a dream’, but where transcendence at the same time has a reality of its own within the immanent space of dream.
In analyzing a series of poems, the article seeks to broaden the understanding of the concepts internalization, unrealization, and transfiguration. For example, in a reading of “Afsked till Lifvet” (“Parting from Life”, after 1818) it is shown how internalization doesn’t function as a principle of absolute self-knowledge but as the subject’s meeting with its own fractures and boundaries. Further, unrealization is discussed in the figure of ‘Amanda’, which plays a dominant role in a series of poems. Whereas in older scholarship ‘Amanda’ forms the basis for various kinds of biographical speculation, which in itself is problematic as very little is known about Stagnelius’ life, the article reads Amanda as a point of textual construction where meaning takes the form of an unrealizing textual presence based on a process of negation (in sympathy with the Sartrean notion of the imaginary’s capacity of pure negation). Finally, the principle of transfiguration is discussed in light of one of Stagnelius’ few theoretical prose fragments and through a reading of the enigmatic untitled and unfinished poem “Se blomman! På smaragdegrunden” (“See the Flower! On the Emerald Ground”, 1821–23).
In conclusion, the article claims an inversion of transfiguration within the limits of poetic language whereby Stagnelius finds his specificity as a Romantic author: the lyrical text at one and the same time points to an explanatory ground (“förklaringsgrund”) beyond itself, thus suggesting a dimension of transfiguration, and states this kind of ’pointing beyond’ as solely a matter of the density of poetic language. Thus the title of the article: the vision can be retained within the figure of a mysterious dark red fruit, which points to a new way of understanding that is not yet part of given, known reality.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2006. Vol. 127, 156-177 p.