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Röster, blickar och möten: Om berättande och etik i Sara Lidmans Tjärdalen
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas, History of Literature.
2013 (Swedish)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Voices, Faces and Dialogues : Narration and Ethics in Sara Lidman's Tjärdalen (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Sara Lidman’s first novel, Tjärdalen (The Tar Pit, 1953), addresses ethical issues in a remote village in the north of Sweden. This essay discusses the novel’s narrative technique and the ethical aspects implied by the narration and aesthetic design. The approach is based on Adam Zachary Newton’s narrative ethics, which links narrative theory and method with an ethical perspective. Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory and Gérhard Genette’s concept of focalization are starting points for the analysis. The ethical framework is drawn both from Bakhtin and from philosophers Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. This means that responsibility is a more important concept than the collective and individual guilt that has been the focus of some interpretations of the novel. Furthermore, in the essay, the concept of dialogue is both a narrative technique and an ethical position, thus knitting together the different parts of the essay: how ideas, voices, faces and eyes meet and how the village interacts with the outside world.

Tjärdalen’s design opens to a polyphonic analysis and the essay examines how the text’s ethical and intersubjective emphasis grows out of the composition – out of the arrangement of scenes and viewpoints. The dialogue between multiple voices continues in the representation of the characters’ inner life. Petrus’ character is constructed as open and questioning, inviting discussion, persuading and arguing rather than dictating. In the essay this way of life is defined as dialogic, as opposed to the monologic positions of characters like Blom and Albert. The essay finds, however, that the strong position of the narrator dilutes the polyphonic pattern. The examination of the narrator explores both her loyalties and the attitudes and worldviews that she rejects.

Particular emphasis is placed on the analysis of Jonas’ character, as the plot starts and ends with his eyes. The symbolism of the eyes and of the face forms a parallel structure in the text, giving the ethical discussion a depth not achieved by rational dialogue and reflection. In the essay, this level is interpreted by Levinas’ ethics, where the face and the eyes represent a call to responsibility.

At the end of Tjärdalen, the ethical questions are transferred to the wider society outside the village. The analysis explores two lines in this shift: One is how the spatial organisation of the narrative and the unchanging quality of the village life leads to a circular composition. The other is how the text brings social criticism back to its origin in interpersonal relationships: to meetings face to face and to the responsibility for the “other” that, according to Levinas, Buber and Bakhtin, is the basis of these encounters.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. , 61 p.
Keyword [sv]
Sara Lidman, Tjärdalen, narrativ etik, polyfoni, kronotop, dialog, Bachtin, Buber, Levinas, Newton
National Category
Humanities General Literature Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-100193OAI: diva2:695207
Available from: 2014-02-10 Created: 2014-01-29 Last updated: 2014-02-10Bibliographically approved

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