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Literary Impressionisms

Camilla Storskog

Part II: Modes of Literary Impressionism. Textual analyses

5. Summary

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1In bringing to a close this section concerned with avoiding a «casual and descriptive» (Watt 1980: 172) use of the term literary impressionism by presenting examples considered apt to illustrate forms of impressionist fiction in Swedish prose, I would like to stress the directions in which the investigation has moved and the results of the textual analyses carried out. Although the point of departure has been the two common interpretations of literary impressionism in the international debate, i.e., literary impressionism as a transposition of pictorial subjects, means, and methods to words, firstly, and as rendering of impressions, secondly, the examples chosen for discussion have allowed me to break some new ground. While Helena Westermarck’s short story Aftonstämning has opened a sealed box within the decoding of literary impressionism in Scandinavia, namely the one containing ekphrastic discussions of texts acting as impressionist paintings, Stella Kleve’s narrative art, which provides examples of scenic impressionism as well as of the refined narrative device of ‘delayed decoding’ (taking the reader directly into the consciousness of the observer at the instant of the not-yet-intelligible, raw, perception), has allowed me both to abide by the extensive use of the term encountered in the Scandinavian debate on literature and impressionism, and connect to the international debate on impressionist perception in writing, as understood by Ian Watt.

2Lastly, the attempt to scrutinize the ways in which literary critics extended the terms ‘impressionism’ and ‘impressionist’ from painting to prose, has brought me back to two of the more substantial critical comments discussed in the critical survey exposed in part I. I have focussed on examples of criticism in which these terms were used in ways that go beyond their popular and casual application. In the examination of what substance there was to the critical views according to which the narrative techniques in Georg Nordensvan’s Skuggspel and Mikael Lybeck’s Allas vår Margit and Den starkare involved an adoption of literary impressionism, I have found that passages in Nordensvan’s short story collection are concerned with the metonymic mode and with an approach to settings that recall the scenic narration characteristic of Herman Bang’s impressionism, whereas Lybeck’s narrative method in the two novels under scrutiny, at times, significantly in the climactic moments of the story, shows a preoccupation with the perceptions of the individual consciousness that does away with the all-knowing and all-seeing narrator.


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