Mothering at millennium's end: family in 1990s Norwegian literature
Contemporary Norwegian literature received the label of "family literature" at the end of the 1990s, and this study investigates that term as a contested generational marker within a selection of novels from the decade. The overwhelming presence of mothers in this literature underscores the mixed opinions on what it means to mother, and narrows the focuses from the broad emphasis on the family. Whether she speaks in her own voice or if others speak for her, the mother is the catalyst of the plot and mark for familial success or failure. This body of literature provides a strong literary response to the renegotiation of motherhood and the family occurring in society at the end of the millennium. It questions the idealization of motherhood by creating bad mothers that rebel against societal norms. This study offers feminist readings of the representations of the mother in novels by Roger Kurland, Trude Marstein, Anne Oterhohn, Tore Renberg, and Hanne Orstavik.The discourse surrounding this literature has been primarily concerned with the family, so this study begins with a historical look at the Norwegian literary milieu in the 1990s that anticipated and reacted to this emerging literature. The emphasis on the mother adds a distinctive component to the Norwegian discussions, and therefore requires placement within a larger context of feminist theory and feminist literary criticism to substantiate the inclusion of mothers into this literary conversation. The majority of these novels is beyond the nostalgia for the nuclear family and opposed to a universal image of perfect motherhood. However, this literature does not undermine the position of mother even though the mothers appear as childless, excessive, and absent. A feminist reading of this literature exposes the idealization of motherhood, and transforms the negative images into a challenge for the reader to renegotiate her or his own opinion of what it means to mother well.