Illness in Scandinavian Children and Young Adult Literature

In the spring semester, HAS-member, Henrik Johnsson, offers a Master-course studying the history, genre and reception of Scandinavian children and young adult literature The course aims at reading classical texts by Astrid LIndgren, Tove Jansson and Ragnar Hovland with a medical humanities perspective

Humanities in the Medical Education at UiT

The project "Humanities in the Medical Education at UiT" (HUMED) aims at developing and offering interdisciplinary contributions to the medical education at UiT The Arctic university of Norway. The members comes from philosophy, literature, pedagogy, theloogy and medicine. Central to the project is a longitudinal qualitative study in medical education from 2012 until 2018 at the University of Tromsø – the Arctic University of Norway by professor Sylvi Hovdenak from the University of Oslo. A recent publication (October 2019) based on the findings from the study is "The Practically Wise Medical Teacher: Medical Education at the University of Tromsø – A Norwegian Case". On the basis of this study, HUMED argues for the need of offering humanities as a perspective in the medical education at UiT - giving enhanced attention to both patients, relatives as well as doctors facing illness. 

Doctoral Research Fellow, Lise-Mari Lauritzen (2017-2021)

How can fiction contribute to actualise mental health and life mastery in high school teaching? In 2016, the Norwegian government announced that “folkehelse og livsmestring” (public health and life mastery) would be an overarching topic in all the subjects in high schools. My article based dissertation focuses on how we can use fiction in the Norwegian subject in high school to teach the student about mental health and life mastery. The first article is about how fiction can affect the students danning, a term that can be connected to the German Bildung and Greek paideia. The article examines how fiction can stimulate both the individual and social process of becoming reasonable, reflective and independent human beings. The second article illustrates the theory of narrative empathy through the Norwegian contemporary novel Begynnelser/Beginnings (2017) by Carl Frode Tiller. The aim is to combine methods and insights from literary studies and narrative medicine, in order to investigate how narrative empathy can emphasise mental health and life mastery in the Norwegian subject in high school. Beginnings is closely linked to the concept of life mastery, and it can be defined as a Bildungsroman. By close reading the novel in a sociocultural context, the high school students can learn to pay attention to details in the text and to see intratextual and intertextual connections, something that again can contribute to the development of empathy. The last article is an interview study of Norwegian teachers’ experiences, attitudes and understanding of teaching mental health and life mastery. Are mental health and life mastery new topics in the Norwegian subject, are the teachers prepared to work with these topics and is the Norwegian subject the suitable place to address these issues? There will be a special focus on fiction, and the interviews will also emphasise how the teachers believe the use of fiction to be a good way to teach and learn about the topics.

Doctoral Research Fellow, Ingri Løkholm Ramberg (2018-2022)

My Ph.D. project is a comparative analysis of the Norwegian authors Amalie Skram and Knut Hamsun’s autobiographical patient narratives. The texts in question are Skram’s novels from 1985, Professor Hieronimus and På Sct. Jørgen, and Hamsun’s memoir På gjengrodde stier from 1949. During the last decades in Scandinavian literature, two currents have provided us with fresh perspectives with which to examine these texts: The emergence of so-called autofiction and the rise of the interdisciplinary field of literature and medicine. These tendencies allow us to re-read these canonized texts as patient narratives, and it is this I will examine in my dissertation. 

Doctoral Research Fellow, Dragana Lukic (2016-2020)

The aim of the project is to explore creative potentials of fine arts for opening up of different understandings of dementia. First, the author analyzes popular fictional films on dementia from the perspective of feminist materialist theories and feminist visual studies of technoscience.  Second, the author organizes art activities in a form of situated arts interventions in a nursing-home in Northern Norway. By combining these diffractive approaches for studying dementia, the project aims to produce different situated knowledges on the disease and to encourage different forms of collective agency to emerge.

Doctoral Research Fellow, Paula Ryggvik Mikalsen (2017-2021)

My dissertation analyses three contemporary novels, Mats Strandberg's "Hemmet", Ragnar Hovland's "Ei vinterreise" and Olga Ravn's "Celestine". The novels thematise illness, and the analysis showed that although the novels vary in genre, language and experimental narration, different illnesses are portrayed through the same tropes and motifs, more specifically obsession, persecution and haunting. I have read these texts in light of Gothic conventions as presented by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Mathias Fyhr, and I argue that these texts belong to the category of Scandinavian Gothic. Furthermore, the dissertation explores how disease in the texts creates a narrative split, in the form of doubles, impossible narrators, and ontological gaps in more or less mimetic representations of the world. I argue that this literary strategy allows for a broader, richer language that can embrace and convey darker aspects of the illness experience. At the same time, an awareness of metaphorical discourses surrounding illness is established, and the dissertation engages in dialogue with metaphors that connect illness with unnatural and monstrous phenomena. I illuminate these facets through theoretical perspectives from international and Scandinavian Gothic research, the phenomenology of horror, and unnatural narratology, as a methodological introduction to the texts. I conclude that the Gothic and unnatural narratology highlight darker aspects of illness by allowing the text to dwell on the uncomfortable and the uncanny in order to humanise and give voice to voices silenced by illness.

 Assc. Professor Linda H. Nesby

My research focuses on the field of literature and medicine, particularly pathographiesof contemporary age and from within the Scandinavian countries. I am particularly interested in questions of genre, function and narrative structures and have done research on illness stories and blogs, especially among children and young adults.  I have studied contemporary cancer-stories from this point of view, but have also worked on older literature (Wergeland and Hamsun). I am also part of the Phronesis-project which aims at developing perspectives grounded in the humanties into the medical education at UiT. At present, I´m working on a bookproject on contemporary Scandinavian pathographies which will be published spring 2021.

Senior Lecturer, Dr. May-Lill Johansen

I am a medical doctor specialized in general practice (GP), leading the Teaching Unit for Primary Care at UiT. In my Primary Care Research Group, I am currently interviewing patients with chronic pain and fatigue about their experiences. In HAS, my second research group, I can combine my interest in literature with learning from lived experiences written by patients and carers themselves. Of special interest to me are illness stories written by doctors. A recent example is “When Breath becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, which Linda Nesby and I have analyzed in the light of Rita Felski.  

Assc. Professor Henrik Johnsson

My research focuses on ”occult modernism”, a concept explored in the anthology The Occult in Modernist Art, Literature, and Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), co-edited with T.M. Bauduin. Occult modernism designates the intersection of occultism and modernism in the arts. My previous monograph, Det oändliga sammanhanget. August Strindbergs ockulta vetenskap (Malört förlag, 2015), investigated how Strindberg’s occultism contributed to his development of an early modernist aesthetic. I am currently writing a monograph, broader in scope, in which I examine the impact of occultism on the literature of the Modern Breakthrough. A distinctly HAS-related aspect of my research concerns the relationship between madness (literal or figurative), occultism and modernism. I am particularly interested in authors who filtered occultist discourse through the “lens” of madness, making use of unusual psychological states as tools whereby occult beliefs could be understood and expressed in literary form.

Assc. Professor Morten Auklend

Since my Ph.D. dissertation – where the aim was to recontextualize utopian and dystopian narratives in postwar Norwegian literature (2010) – my primary scholarly interest is Nordic short prose texts: short stories, flash fiction, short prose, and lyrical prose, in which I examine both narratological, rhetorical and structural devices within the boundaries of the short format. I am currently writing a book about reading in this format, wherein I have also included texts from outside of the literary realm: twitter texts (“tweets”), mobile texts, facebook updates and various newspaper-writings. The goal is to produce a reframing of the many views and myths regarding reading difficult, unyielding texts, and to propose an analytical and didactic way of approaching the shortest literary forms. Hopefully, I will be able to transfer this interest into my HAS-research. My foray into the illness and literature-department is quite recent, although I have spent some time exploring a field which is congruent to illness and literature, namely the examination of death, mourning and bereavement in Nordic culture and literature. My one and only published book (2016) deals precisely with this intersection of huge themes and short forms, and I believe that by studying how short texts work out the enormous task of dealing with the end in mind, interesting and strange knowledge is produced outside of the literary mainstream of culture.

Professor Laura Castor

My research focuses on the role of literary discourses in renegotiating trauma, especially in  fiction, poetry, and autobiographical writing of the English-speaking world in the 20th and 21st centuries. In my recently completed book manuscript on Facing Trauma: Literary Stories of Survival and Possibility in Uncertain Times (forthcoming in 2019, Cambridge Scholars Publishing) I develop literary analyses of texts by Louise Erdrich, Siri Hustvedt, Melanie Thernstrom, Nicole Krauss, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Toni Morrison. In the book I explore ways in which singular traumas are  part of  larger stories. It is possible to tell a variety of stories about traumatic experience, not only stories that perpetuate the dualistic discourses of victims and perpetrators that sustain cycles of violence and harm globally. In my continuing research, I am interested  in the role of reader empathy and narrator agency; therapeutic possibilities and limitations in writing and reading; ways in which embodied oral dialogues of health and illness translate to written texts and music intended for wider audiences; and in the cultural, psychological, political, and historical contexts that shape contemporary narratives of illness and health.

Professor Ann Therese Lotherington

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate how a creative writing process might bring about spirit in life and contribute to shaping and changing lives of people with dementia. The project analyses a diary written by an 85 years old man with dementia during his last two years of life, discusses what made the writing process possible, and what the writing process did to him and his environment.