Anna-Karin Jonasson



The Border Chronotope and the Dissolution of the World of Form. A study of the Border Theme in Kerstin Ekman's trilogy The Wolf Skin (1999-2003)

The aim of my study is to explore the border theme in the Vargskinnet (The Wolfskin) trilogy (1999–2003) by Kerstin Ekman. Some motifs, such as skin and water, play important roles in this context, as they form part of the novels’ designs of ­the maintenance, transcending and dissolution of boundaries. These boundary phenomena are derived from different contexts — cultural and geographical, as well as abstract and material — and in the novels they appear mainly as recurring patterns in the novels’ subtext.

The trilogy consists of Guds barmhärtighet (God's Mercy), 1999, Sista rompan (The Last String) 2002, and Skraplotter (Lottery Scratchcards), 2003. In addition to the important border motifs, the novels contain, on an overall level, problem­atisations of the relationship between form and content, between external and internal. Human perceptions and relation to boundary definition and demarca­tion are central elements of the theme to which I draw attention and include artistic creation. The analyses show how Ekman constantly relates to tradition and renewal, to different literary direction and to other writers in her treatment of man as an image creator.

Vargskinnet’s thematisation of borders in various forms highlights, above all, an ongoing struggle: the struggle for power over time and space. The importance of raising awareness of the driving forces behind our ideas of the world, of our place in it and of our relations with the outside world is also highlighted in these novels. Problematisations of artistic creation, boundaries and power struggle are also found in other novels by Ekman. Examples from two of these, Gör mig levande igen ( Make Me Alive Again), 1996 and Grand final i skojarbranschen (Grand Final in the Entertainment Industry), 2011, are therefore used to deepen the analyses of Vargskinnet’s border themes.

The analytical starting points of the study are mainly derived from literary theory as well as philosophical and posthumanist, feminist theory. As time and space are important elements of Vargskinnet's border themes, Michail Bachtin’s theories of the chronotope — a concept referring to the artistic designs of time and space in novels — offer useful concepts and perspectives. These make it possible to distinguish patterns in the novel’s text, in the form of repetitions and variations. Some constellations of images and descriptions recur.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological philosophy deals with human perceptions of the relationship between form and content, as well as various border phenomena, mainly based on the body and our senses. Verbal images are particularly important in his philosophy and this applies not least to innovative metaphors. These are most prominent in his late writings, such as the posthumously published The Visible and the Invisible (1968). The complex relationship between inner and outer, as well as the creative potential of image creation, are important motives in Vargskinnet and Merleau-Ponty’s concepts and reasoning highlight their function in the trilogy.

Rosi Braidotti is associated with both material feminism and posthumanism and is today one of the leading theorists in these fields of research. Braidotti’s intriguing interdisciplinary perspectives and the breadth of the range of ques­tions she discusses make her theories difficult to summarise, but something I have taken on in the study of Vargskinnet is her quest for a new, non-linear way in which to describe and understand the world. On the one hand, it can be said to be characteristic of Ekman’s style, and on the other hand it fits well into my search for patterns in the form of recurring border motifs in her novels.


Collections (editor)

Hennig, R. (ed.) , Jonasson, A. (ed.) & Degerman, P. (ed.) (2018). Nordic Narratives of Nature and the Environment : Ecocritical Approaches to Northern European Literatures and Cultures. Lanham, Boulder, New York, London : Lexington Books

Doctoral theses

Jonasson, A. (2022). Gränskronotopen och upplösningen av formens värld : En studie av gränstematiken i Kerstin Ekmans trilogi <em>Vargskinnet</em> (1999-2003). Dis. Åbo Akademis förlag, Åbo Akademi University Press, 2022  

The page was updated 9/23/2022