Revolutionary voices: Nordic women writers and the development of female urban prose 1860-1900

Janke Klok*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    In 1795, Mary Wollstonecraft's travels to Scandinavian cities gave her new perspectives on the English and Continental bourgeois cultures with which she was acquainted. Her notions of the city as a source of inspiration for self-knowledge and knowledge of the world are echoed in the epistolary writings of the Norwegian author Camilla Collett (1813-1895) and the novels of her countrywoman Amalie Skram (1846-1905). Collett and Skram were both frequent visitors to different European capital cities, and incorporated their impressions and experiences of these cities. This resulted in innovative texts, with the individual in a new, modern environment, the city, as one of the central themes. For Collett, who can be regarded as a city correspondent avant la lettre, the city was also a yardstick for cultural progress. In her novels, Skram used the European city as a sort of laboratory of the modern era. Nevertheless, Collett's and Skram's 'city texts' are not the ones that have ensured that these two authors found their way into the literary canon. Collett became famous as the author of the first Norwegian feminist novel, whereas Skram is known as a Norwegian naturalist. Until recently, the prose texts in which Collett and Skram processed their urban experiences were either not discussed in Norwegian literary historiography, or were labelled as contributions to the morality debate that raged in Scandinavia at the end of the nineteenth century. In this article, I shall propose that Collett and Skram contribute to a distinctive yet unrecognized genre - female urban prose - which proffers new modes of thinking and writing about women's experience of contemporaneous bourgeois culture.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)74-88
    Number of pages15
    JournalFeminist review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct-2010


    • literary city
    • bourgeois culture
    • urban prose
    • genre

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