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Begärets irrvägar: existentiell tematik i Stig Dagermans texter
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts.
1986 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The wanderings of desire : existential themes in the texts of Stig Dagerman (English)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this s tudy is to investigate the three great existential questions—anxiety, love and death—in the works of Stig Dagerman. Emphasis is placed on the novels Ormen [The Snake] (1945), De dömdas ö [The Island of the Doomed ] (1946), Bränt barn [A Burnt Child] (1948), and Bröllopsbesvär [Wedding Worries] (1949), as well as the play Den dödsdömde [The Condemned] (1948). To this end, interpretation is used in the sense given to it by Paul Ricoeur—interpretation that leads to an understanding of a double meaning. In the present case, this means that the texts' symbolic level is revealed and accorded as great an importance as the story at the surface, manifest level .

The theme of anxiety is most apparent in the first novel, while the question of eroticism is central to De dömdas ö and Bränt barn. Each novel expresses a pessimistic view of erotic love as a realizable possibility. Death, which has concrete, motivational and abstract aspects , occurs in every text. Murder and suicide interact with inner, spiritual deadness. This state means acquiring a lowered or threatened inner vitality in which the psyche becomes "icebound". Inner deadness is a form of anxiety.

Analysis reveals that anxiety, the complications of love and the problem of death are related to a mother figure. The mother figures in the texts are alternately the objects of destructive hatred and excessive love. Behind these mother figures is concealed the experience of a mother who has betrayed, and who is there fore the object of both aggression and longing. This longing, according to Freudian-Lacanic theory, is expressed in a desire for the mother's body, i.e. a longing fo r the lost unity with the mother in original symbiosis. Thus, the mother figure in the texts also has mythical dimensions—Mother and death are in a sense equivalent. To die is to return to the mother, but death, or the proximity of death thus also provides the opportunity for a symbolic rebirth. Both the proximity of concrete death—as in thwarted suicide attempts—and a symbolic death — as in the form of extreme self-degradation—give rise to an increased feeling of life, if only for a moment.

The psychologist Robert Jay Lifton has shown that murder can be a conscious step in a process of self- destruction. Murder is in this case a phase in a search for revitaliza-tion, which is thus the ultimate aim of suicide. This phenomenon appears on the symbolic level in Dagermans works, especially in the play Den dödsdömde.

The interpretation reveals that the existential question that dominates Dagerman's texts is the struggle against the threat of inner deadness. The fixation with death in the texts is, in the final analysis , an expression of a desire to live.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1986. , 296 p.
Umeå studies in the humanities, ISSN 0345-0155 ; 76
Keyword [en]
existential questions, anxiety, eroticism, maternal symbiosis, inner deadness, suicide, desire to live
National Category
Specific Literatures
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-66614ISBN: 91-7174-249-2OAI: diva2:609309
Public defence
1986-10-10, Humanisthuset, hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2013-03-05 Created: 2013-02-26 Last updated: 2013-03-05Bibliographically approved

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