Literary descriptions of peasant life hold a central place in the literature of Poland And Sweden and offer much ground for comparative studies of the subject’s narrative, contentual and historical aspects. A decisive factor for the view of peasant portrayals in the two countries lies in the facts that the Polish authors, such as Henryk Sienkeiwicz, Bolesław Prus, Eliza Orzeszkowa, Władysław Stanisław Reymont, Maria Dąbrowska, had their roots in the so called intelligentsia, while the often self-taught writers in Sweden, Ivar Lo-Johansson, Jan Fridegård, Vilhelm Moberg, Moa Martinson, grew up in Swedish farming and farm labor environments. These authors’ works with their association to the peasantry are analyzed in the investigation presented here, as are the peasant portrayals of August Strindberg and the only “genuine” Polish autodidact, Władysław Orkan. What is new and different in this work is the attempt to demonstrate the differences caused by culture and social circumstance that affected and still affect attitude of writers and readers towards the rural population in Poland and Sweden, which is reflected in an interesting way in the literature of the two countries.
The theoretical starting point is taken from German reception esthetics theory (according to Wolfgang Iser, among others), the work of Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva’s deconstructivistic theories. The purpose of the study is to attempt to show how the influence of different historical, social and other codes is expressed in the Polish and Swedish peasant portrayals selected. The disposition of the project is built upon four main codes: the cultural, the semantic, the literary and the symbolic. These perspectives provide a spectrum of observation that ranges from social conditions and experiences of nature and mysticism to narrative technique and more general portrayals of people. Great importance is also placed on the investigation of the degree of concreteness of the narrative structure and the narrator’s relation to the world portrayed. These factors are gathered under the concept of “narrative strategies”. Attention is also given to identifying the differences brought about by historical, social and religious norms in the representation and treatment of women in Polish and Swedish works of fiction.
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2001. , 300 p.