Teaching and research emphases
- Studies on subjectivity
- Literature and (non-)knowledge
- Gender theory (body politics, sexuality and desire, studies on masculinity, family studies)
- Interculturality, migration and minority literature, multilingualism
- Literature on dirtiness and cleanliness, critical whiteness studies
- Critical phenomenology (literature, space and emotion)
The self in literature
At the center of my interest stands the literary negotiation of subjectivity. What is a subject, a self, an ego? How does the ego constitute itself as a unity of body and mind in conflict with itself, other subjects and with its surroundings? How is it influenced and driven? And how is that narrated in film and literature?
I found an important impulse for the topic of subjectivity in Søren Kierkegaard’s thought. In my book Das Begehren nach der Wunde. Religion und Erotik im Schreiben Kierkegaards (2008) (Eng.: Desire for the Wound. Religion and Eroticism in Kierkegaard’s Writing) I pursued Kierkegaard’s doubt toward the presupposed stability of the Hegelian rational subject and elaborated his fascination for the forbidden of desire, ultimately yielding a philosophy of the subject as one that is dark, non transparent to itself. In order to work out desire’s ambivalence between prohibition and transgression as a desire for the painful inconclusiveness of existence, for the wound of the self, I drew on concepts which Judith Butler and Slavov Žižek develop from Jaques Lacan: the law of the father, non-identity, melancholic masculinity, overindulgence, excess, hysteria…
Poetics of Force
The question of the impenetrability of one’s own existence is also central in my second book ‘Close your Eyes’. Phantasma, Kraft und Dunkelheit in der skandinavischen Literatur (2014) (Eng.: ‘Close your Eyes’. Phantasm, Force and Darkness in Scandinavian Literature). Instead of starting with a single thinker’s writing, I sought here to render visible a historico-cultural shift that took place around ideas of force as a factor of human development. On the basis of texts from Scandinavian natural philosophy, I show that force was understood far into the 19th century as something in which its telos was always inscribed. The idea of force as a category of ordered development applied as well to the concept of the poetic imagination. Despite all the freedom conceded to it, it was still expected that it would not contradict the law of reason and that all the antagonistic forces would harmonize in a higher unity. The currency of this idea gives way at the end of the 19th century to a poetics of irrational force, as can be shown in texts by J.P. Jacobson, August Strindberg, Knut Hamsun and Johannes V. Jensen, among others. The paradigm of idealistic imagination is transformed in the modern era into a phantasmal world of the conceptually impenetrable. Once a medium of knowledge, literature becomes a medium of unknowability.
With two new research projects I depart from the period of the 19th and early 20th centuries, hitherto important for me, and turn decidedly to contemporary literature and film. In so doing, however, my interest in questions about subjectivity and, closely related, about the body remains pivotal.
Dirtiness and Cleanliness
In the first research project, Dirtiness and Cleanliness in Swedish migrant, minority and working class Literature, I investigate how bodies stigmatized as dirty are excluded from the Swedish ‘people’s home’. Methodically I connect in this project with critical whiteness studies, in which the power position of the ‘white body’ is criticized as one that establishes itself through repression and exclusion of non-white bodies.
Love and the Machine / Posthuman Desire in contemporary Science Fiction
In the second research project, Posthuman Desire, I examine forms of intimate relationships which are problematized by the majority of a society as deviating from the norm and therefore as questionable or even illegitimate. Such questionability becomes clear particularly in the relationship between humans and posthuman creatures, the ‘technological Others’. The research project investigates how ‘posthuman love affairs’ are represented nowadays, at the beginning of the so-called posthumanist age, in science fiction films and literature. Drawing on posthumanist theory, I seek to explore the impact of technological developments on practices of love and sexuality. Which changes in intimate relationships are subject of discussion in contemporary artworks? What does it mean to desire posthumanly? Can man’s relationship with machines translate into real intimacy? Considering these questions by analyzing science fiction can help to explain our technocultural condition, because in that genre more than others we find the encounter between man and machine already thematized.
Aside from the four mentioned research fields I also focus on texts and theories about the realm of the family, about the relation between spatial experience and emotion, and also on auto-fictional texts.