Disputationen äger rum kl. 10.00 i Auditorium 215, Humanistvillan, Frescativägen 24.

Opponent: Professor Dr Karin Hoff, Georg-August Universität, Göttingen Tyskland.

Abstract

Anna Cavallin. Foto: Niklas Björling.
Anna Cavallin. Foto: Niklas Björling.

The purpose of this doctoral thesis is to read August Strindberg’s Giftas in relation to two strands: conduct books on one hand and consumer culture on the other, and to analyse representations of the presence of didactic, disciplinary subject positions as well as the presence of consumer culture, in relation to gender and exercise of power.

In the thesis the concepts of consumption/consumerism, including transaction and exposition, are introduced and analysed, as well as the discussion around the status of marriage, and the debate about gender differences and power relations at the time of the publication of Giftas. The analyses explore how, in the short stories, as well as in the prefaces of Giftas, discourses on the debate about marriage, the ”woman question”, consumer culture and conduct books are represented, discussed and displayed.

Conceptions of voice, space, and playing with the genre and tone of the conduct books is present in the analyses. The study also centres on homosociality versus heterosociality, and the concept of the heterosexual matrix, and examines how consumerism could take the form both of asceticism, and of sexualised violence. The city as a ‘room’ for consumer culture is exposed; the suspicious figure of the bachelor is pitted against the husband and the father. The concepts of transaction, exposition and transformation in the contexts of consumer culture are discussed, and how these concepts are centred around questions of advertising and consumption of goods as well as human relationships, and how power structures defining the experiences of love in the consumer society, is an effect of a capitalist system based on an economy of credits. The discourses of consumer culture and education, in relation to power structures, are represented in the analyses, as well as the discourse on the position of the educator, in relationship to an overarching critique against the national educational system put forward by Strindberg in his stories. The conflict around taking a didactic position is central in Giftas. The diverse didactic positions taken up by women is put into question and found problematic; and this is one point where Strindberg toys with – and is polemic against – the conduct book-genre. Another main theme in the thesis is the silencing of the speaker’s voice, how differently this turns out for the male protagonist and the female. The question of how to ”do gender
in the right way” is also recurring throughout as centre of interest in Strindberg’s stories, how the protagonists perform their expected gender roles in ”the wrong way”.

This study examines the relationships between, on one hand, the genre of the conduct books, the manuals of manners, in August Strindberg’s two short story collections Giftas, and on the other, how this presence of didactic discourse intersects with discourses of consumer culture in various forms. In this study, I show a strong presence of both these kinds of discourse, presented in various ways throughout the stories. I have exposed how Strindberg both relates to – and plays with – the genre of ”manuals of manners” in the two collections of short stories examined, and how it is mobilised in an interplay with the discourses on consumerism, which are equally prevalent in the stories.

Keywords: Household politics, domesticity, family, home, masculinity, femininity, gender, sexuality, heterosexual matrix, consumerism, consumer culture, education, discipline, August Strindberg, Giftas, 1880’s.