Impossible Possibilities. Lesbian Love in 1920s Norwegian Literature. In Conversation with Per Esben Svelstad

von Nordlitt. Skandinavistische Literaturforschung im Gespräch

Per Esben Svelstad, NTNU Trondheim, introduces the first Norwegian novel discussing lesbian love, Borghild Krane’s Følelser forvirring. We discover an uncanonized author, learn about homocultural codes in the inter-war years and a queer intertext by Stefan Zweig. Detours to poet Åsmund Sveen and novelists Sigrid Undset and Ebba Haslund create insights into early literary portrayals of homoerotic desire. We speculate about differences between queer studies in the Nordic countries, look at the relation between academia and activism and the possibility of finding community in literature and literary studies.


(00:00:36) Introduction Per Esben Svelstad

(00:01:56) How Did Per Esben Encounter Queer Literary Studies?

(00:04:58) Why Queer Literary Studies Aren’t as Common in Norway

(00:10:36) Comparing Sweden and Norway in that Aspect

(00:13:11) Intersections between Nationalsocialist Tendencies and Homosexuality

(00:24:10) Borghild Krane’s novel Følelsers forvirring 

(00:32:21) Trying out Different Possibilities of Homosexual Life in Literature

(00:37:15) A Transnational Homosexual Community

(00:40:00) Paranoid and Reparative Reading

(00:47:00) Krane’s Interest in Sigrid Undset and the Topic of Sexuality 

(00:57:34) Homosexuality as a Struggle among other Struggles

(01:00:58) Stefan Zweig’s Verwirrung der Gefühle as an Intertext to Krane’s Novel

(01:10:25) “Homocultural Code”

(01:19:58) Finding Gay Communities Through Literature

(01:23:12) Knowledge, Narration and the Mirror Motif

(01:32:21) What Advice Would You Give Your Student-Self?


  • Myren-Svelstad, Per Esben: “The Textuality of Sexuality: Interpreting Homosexuality in Two European Inter-War Narratives”. In: Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 58 (No. 4), 2021, p. 722–743. 
  • Myren-Svelstad, Per Esben: “Tantalizing Idylls. Nature and Unattainable Pleasures in Gay and Lesbian Literature”. In: Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 89 (No. 3), 2017, S. 326–350. 
  • Krane, Borghild: Følelsers forvirring. Oslo: Gyldendal 1937.
  • Zweig, Stefan: Verwirrung der Gefühle. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer 1998 [1927].

Further reading:

  • Felski, Rita: The Limits of Critique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
  • Haslund, Ebba: Det hendte ingenting. Oslo: Aschehoug 2016 [1948].
  • Jæger, Alf Martin: Odd Lyng. Kristiania: Norske Forfatteres Forlag 1924. 
  • Myrvang, Christine: Tause kilders tale. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget 2020.
  • Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky: “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You probably Think this Essay is About You“. In: Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky: Touching Feeling. Durham: Duke University Press 2003, p. 123—152.
  • Sveen, Åsmund: „Til dei unge menn“. In: Sveen, Åsmund: Såmannen. Oslo: Gyldendal 1940.
  • Sveen, Åsmund (Hrsg.): Norsk ånd og vilje. Oslo: I kommisjon hos Stenersen 1942.
  • Undset, Sigrid: Den lykkelige alder. Oslo: Aschehoug 1908.
    dt.: Das glückliche Alter. Berlin: Suhrkamp 2019.
  • Vesaas, Tarjej: Is-slottet. Oslo: Den norske Bokklubben 1967.
    dt.: Das Eis-Schloss. München: dtv 2021.