Of Nils and Nation: Selma Lagerlöf's The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

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Of Nils and Nation: Selma Lagerlöf's The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

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Publication Conference Paper, peer reviewed
Title Of Nils and Nation: Selma Lagerlöf's The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
Author(s) Sundmark, Björn
Date 2007-08
English abstract
Of Nils and Nation: Selma Lagerlöf’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils This year sees the centennial of the publication of the international children’s classic The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf. By all accounts it is a remarkable work. Charmed by the extraordinary tale one easily forgets that the story of the spoilt boy Nils, who is - literally - cut down to size by an elf, and then has to travel goose-back the length and breadth of Sweden before he can return home reformed, is in fact a geography book, and a formidable one at that. In my paper I set out to show that despite Lagerlöf’s use of the fairy tale vehicle, the book is also a work of instruction, calculated to build character and nation. As such it represents the vested interests of the state school system, and the national ideology of modern Sweden. Nils’ journey delimits the borders of Sweden - it produces a Swedish “space.” Lagerlöf takes stock of the nation’s natural resources, characterises its inhabitants, draws upon legends and history, and ultimately constructs a “folkhem” (app. national gemeinschaft) where social classes, ethnic groups and language differences are blurred in favour of a sense of Swedish belonging and destiny. Thus, the text can be seen as a powerful tool of national ideology. In my paper I will discuss representations of power and national ideology in the text itself. Moreover, I will comment on the way in which pedagogical handbooks and study guides from different periods relate to and address issues of power, nationalism and ideology. Björn Sundmark
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Humanities/Social Sciences
Note Föredraget hölls vid den "18th biennial congress of the International Research Society for Children's Literature", Kyoto
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/5142 (link to this page)

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