From AIDS to Assimilation: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Swedish Literature
Warburton, Timothy Ryan
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This dissertation examines representations of male homosexuality in Swedish literature from 1968-2013. Since the initial visibility of homosexuality with the coming-out of Bengt Martin on Swedish television in 1968, dominant gay rights discourses in Sweden have been characterized by internal dissent over the "proper" image of male homosexuality. Rather than tracing is origins to the Stonewall Inn Riots of 1969, this dissertation focuses on the AIDS crisis as a crucial and pivotal turning point in the history of homosexuality, and as playing an integral role in the shaping of contemporary discourses on male homosexuality. The project expands the history of homosexuality in Sweden beyond legislative milestones, and analyzes key sociopolitical moments in Swedish history in order to locate the literary representations into a broader context. This study is organized into four chapters that examine the literary representations of male homosexuality. The first two chapters of this study offer analyzes of the literary history as well as the political and legal discourses through which ideas about homosexuality were circulated. Chapter I discusses Bengt Martin's coming-out on Swedish television, and argues that Martin's trilogy about the young homosexual in Stockholm, Sodomsäpplet (1968), Nejlikmusslan (1969) and Finnas till (1970), first established literature as a space in which dominant ideas about homosexuality were contradicted. Prior to Martin's coming-out, the medical profession and legal discourses produced information about homosexuality unilaterally. Chapter II examines Ola Klingberg's Onans bok (1999) in the context of two pieces of legislation surrounding HIV/AIDS, inclusion of HIV under Smittskyddslagen (1985) and Bastuklubbslagen (1987). This chapter analyzes the legacy of these pieces of legislation in both Onans bok and the coming-out of Swedish pop star Andreas Lundstedt in 2008. The two latter chapters of this dissertation reflect the shift in the way homosexuality and gay identity have been discussed in a broader sense since the late 1980s, and thus employs a more theoretical framework in order to drive its discussion. Chapter III works with the idea of the cultural amnesia of the AIDS crisis, which was undertaken by dominant gay rights discourses in order to promote a bourgeois image of male homosexuality. This chapter looks at two subgenres of Swedish literature: the young adult novels Duktig pojke (1977) by Inger Edelfeldt and Spelar roll (1993) by Hans Olsson; the gay chick lit novels Jaktsäsongen (2006) and Bekantas bekanta (2007). The analysis focuses on the symptoms experienced by gay culture and identity as a result of the phenomenon of cultural amnesia. Chapter IV employs trauma theory to examine Jonas Gardell's trilogy Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar (2012-13) and focuses on the idea of the double trauma of the AIDS crisis. This chapter argues that Gardell's trilogy demanded a cultural recollection of the AIDS crisis, and engages scholar Sara Edenheim's critique of the media discourse that ensued. This dissertation considers the broader effects of the overall increase in acceptability and visibility of homosexuality, and concludes that literary representations of male homosexuality demonstrate a distinct departure from earlier representations that were informed by medical discourses and discourses of disease; the analysis presented in this study demonstrates how representations of male homosexuality published after the AIDS crisis unanimously support gay identity as a valid expression of an authentic self. The study also concludes that Jonas Gardell's trilogy marks a crucial shift in the role of representations of homosexuality in literature, as the trilogy is the first example of literary discourses of homosexuality informing dominant discourses on cultural memory and sexual identity.