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Literary Impressionisms

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Camilla Storskog

Part I: Lirerary Impressionism. A variety of concerns

6. Summary

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1The argument here has been the recent revival of critical interest in the impact of impressionism on literature, as well as the variety of literary impressionisms that one encounters historically, both on the international scene and in specific Nordic contexts. Although the French impressionist painters are still, as they were in earlier studies, «a fairly solid core of reference» (Muller 1938: 356) for scholars working on this subject today, interart comparisons have by no means been the only way of coming to terms with the notion of literary impressionism – not even in the age of impressionism, and especially not in the Nordic countries, as I have tried to demonstrate. While the critical survey at the end of this section has shown that, just like in Britain and France, also within the Swedish context «the term was […] extended to ways of writing which were thought to possess the qualities popularly attributed to the painters […] works that were spontaneous and rapidly executed, that were vivid sketches rather than detailed, finished, and premeditated compositions» (Watt 1980: 172), turning the spotlight on three landmark interpretations of literary impressionism in Scandinavia has proved that there also existed other, quite different concerns in the applicaton of the term. An author such as Herman Bang, on whose status as the foremost Scandinavian prose impressionist there is a general consensus, cultivated an understanding of literary impressionism that drew close to the theatre stage, while a grouping such as the Norwegian Bohème of the 1880s adapted an interpretation of impressionism as «a licence to write subjectively» (Bender 1976: 50) in the heydays of objective naturalism. Strindberg’s engagement with impressionism, both pictorial and writerly, shows that the author’s interest in the impressionist school was mainly due to its association with modernity, lunacy, and rebellion.

2The examination of the use of the notion in the Finland-Swedish press has shown that what reviewers and critics included in the idea of literary impressionism was a combination of the aforementioned aspects; i.e., not only a way of coming to terms with the writers’ various ways of adapting the technique of the impressionist painters to fiction, but also texts inspired by Bang’s impressionism, as well as works animated by a subjective naturalism. As we have seen, literary impressionism also provided these journalists with an apt definition for writings connotated by fragmentary compositions and a careless perception of reality, as in the popular and unfavourable understanding of painterly impressionism. Lastly, this section of the present work has also supplied a few names of authors writing in Swedish that will concern the following part of the study.

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