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Mads Bunch, Københavns Universitet

Keynote speaker

Unveiling the Human Condition

- Scandinavian Radicalism 1870-2017


Abstract: Since Georg Brandes in 1871 uttered the famous words that literature should “put problems under debate” some Scandinavian writers, playwrights, and filmmakers have – in their quest for a sincere depiction of the human condition – been working from a point of departure were nothing is taboo.

Back in 1983 after releasing his first film Befrielsesbilleder Lars von Trier formulates a poetics close to that of Brandes:  “Films should be made to bring something up for discussion (…) I happen to be of the opinion that if things exist, then you’re not only allowed to show them, you have to show them!” About thirty years later Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård writes in Min kamp vol. 6 (2011): “Why are we so shameful about all that is basically the most human about us and why are we keeping it secret? What is it that is so dangerous that we do not dare to speak about it?”

This keynote sets out to investigate a particular current within Scandinavian art (tentatively labeled “Scandinavian Radicalism”) that starts with Brandes, Ibsen and Strindberg, continues with Bergman and von Trier, to contemporary Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård (and the new wave of autofiction in Scandinavia). What do the poetics of these artists have in common? In what ways do each of them they try to represent “reality” and “truth” in their works? What types of common themes do they engage (e.g. gender, sexuality, anxiety), and why, and in what way, can their works be described as “radical”?


Mads Bunch (b. 1974) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen. He has previously taught as a Lecturer at The University of British Columbia in Canada (2006-11). He has published books and articles on a wide number of topics. Books on contemporary Danish and Scandinavian Literature include: Samtidsbilleder (2009), Millennium. Nye retninger i nordisk litteratur (ed., 2013) and a book on contemporary Danish autofiction: Selvfortalt (with Poul Behrendt, 2015). In spring 2016 he will be publishing a new book on Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) and Søren Kierkegaard: Isak Dinesen Reading Søren Kierkegaard. On Christianity, Seduction, Gender, and Repetition at Legenda Books, UK.

His interest in Film Studies has led to the publication of two book chapters on Lars von Trier, one of them engaging August Strindberg and the notion of Scandinavian Radicalism. He is now working on a new book on Lars von Trier (under contract with Edinburgh University Press) tentatively titled: The Auteur Lars von Trier. An Interdisciplinary Study – On Authorship, Film, and Literature. Mads Bunch is currently the President of the Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada.

Earlier Event: June 17
Later Event: June 17
Closing Remarks