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”Så vittna du om min mandom!”: Wilhelm Peterson-Bergers konstfilosofi och könsuppfattning, med särskild hänsyn till åren 1896-1913
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies.
2015 (Swedish)Licentiate thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
"Thus bear witness to my manhood!" : Wilhelm Peterson-Berger's philosophy of art and perception of gender, with particular emphasis on the years 1896-1913 (English)
Abstract [en]

The overall purpose of this study is to elucidate Wilhelm Peterson-Berger’s perception of gender and how it is manifested in his philosophy of art. His perception of gender also incorporates conceptions of history, music and nationality. The research question is analysed primarily by reviewing Peterson-Berger’s writings from 1896 to 1913. The research is intended to shed new light on a previously overlooked area of research, using gender theory and discourse analysis. Peterson-Berger and his work have not been examined previously from a gender theory perspective.

 The research shows that Peterson-Berger was influenced in large measure by the prevailing ideals of his time, although he was in some ways more innovative than many of his contemporaries. Around the turn of the 20th century there was a great deal of focus on biology, with  a clear distinction drawn between femininity and masculinity[1] . Masculinity was held up as an ideal, in contrast to femininity and effeminacy. Peterson-Berger advocated this distinction, and emphasized the biological  distinction between [2] masculinity and femininity. However, a man need not always have all the characteristics that were considered typically masculine for his time, nor was it necessary for a woman to possess all the feminine characteristics typical of the female gender. According to Peterson-Berger, a woman could have a masculine soul, and vice versa. And although he often took a negative view of women, he granted musical recognition to singers who realized music in what was, to him, a masculine way. Moreover, the majority of Peterson-Berger’s close friends were women, and he dedicated many of his works to women.

Theories of race and human evolution were circulating at the turn of the century, and clearly influenced Peterson-Berger. This study has shown that he pursued the writings of [3]  Chamberlain[4]  and Nietzsche. Incorporating elements of old Gothicist theories with ideas from the two aforementioned thinkers, Peterson-Berger constructed his own racial theory. He asserted that all peoples originated from the Nordic region, which he believed to be the birthplace of the entire human race. According to his theory, southern peoples were inferior[5] , with one exception, the Greeks, towards whom he was very positively disposed. This had to do with the ancient music drama, which Peterson-Berger believed had been created by inhabitants from the north who had migrated to Greece.

Peterson-Berger’s notions about peoples from the north versus peoples from the south were interwoven with theories of sexuality. He believed that Germanic peoples were more sexually abstemious than southern Europeans, and that peoples who lived in the south were sexually dissolute. To indulge one’s sexuality was, in his view, a character flaw. Conversely, Peterson-Berger viewed asexuality as a masculine ideal, and believed it to be more common in the north.

 A number of contradictions have emerged in his perceptions of race and sexuality. A number of his perceptions with respect to gender roles, sexuality, nationalism and philosophy[6]  are portrayed in his opera Arnljot, as are the contradictions inherent in them. For instance, the character Arnljot has many of the typical masculine characteristics held up as ideal, but nevertheless exhibits both weaknesses and deficiencies. This is reflected in both the music and the opera libretto.



Abstract [sv]

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger var en av de mest framstående tonsättarna kring sekelskiftet 1900. Han var inte bara kompositör utan även aktiv skribent i daglighetspressen. Många av hans uppfattningar om kön, nationalitet, filosofi och konst återspelglas i hans skriftställeri men kan även tydas i de musikaliska verken. Peterson-Berger var till stor del påverkad av dåtidens rådande ideal, men på vissa sätt var han mer nydanande än många andra i sin samtid. Omkring sekelskiftet sattes mycket fokus på biologi och en tydlig uppdelning gjordes mellan kvinnligt och manligt. Manlighet ställdes upp som ett ideal i kontrast till kvinnlighet och omanlighet. Peterson-Berger förespråkar en sådan uppdelning och gör skillnad mellan biologisk manlighet och kvinnlighet. Dock behöver inte alltid en man förfoga över egenskaper som ansågs tidstypiskt manliga eller en kvinna inneha endast de tidstypiska kvinnliga egenskaperna. Enligt honom kunde en kvinna vara innehavare av en manlig själ och vice versa. Peterson-Berger tangerade således en modern syn på kön som pekar fram mot dagens genus teorier. I Peterson-Bergers opera Arnljot konkretiseras flera av hans uppfattningar av både könsroller, sexualitet och filosofi – liksom de motsägelser som fanns. Karaktären Arnljot förfogar exempelvis över flera av de idealtypiska manliga egenskaperna men uppvisar trots det både svagheter och brister. Det återspeglas såväl i text som i musik. Peterson-Bergers egen sexualitet har upprepade gånger varit omdiskuterad. Knyter vi an till hans musikaliska verk och skriftställeri kommer vi närmare ett svar på hur det kan ha förhållit sig.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2015. , 126 p.
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2015:2
Keyword [en]
Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, philosophy of art, gender theory, nationalism, opera, Arnljot
Keyword [sv]
Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, konstfilosofi, genusteori, nationalism, opera, Arnljot
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-34592ISBN: 978-91-7063-609-7OAI: diva2:762985
2015-01-08, 3A 340, Karlstads universitet, Karlstad, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-01-15 Created: 2014-11-13 Last updated: 2015-01-15Bibliographically approved

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