Vid tänkandets gränser. Om Peter Nilsons essäistik
2008 (Swedish)In: Samlaren: tidskrift för svensk litteraturvetenskaplig forskning, ISSN 0348-6133, Vol. 129, 239-269 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
This study deals with the essays of Swedish author and former astronomer Peter Nilson (1937–1998). The main aim is to describe the characteristics of Nilson’s essay writing with perspectives from modern essay theory. This is done by relating him to one of the main paths of the international essay tradition, chiefly inspired by Michel de Montaigne, where the essay has served as a method or a creative tool for deep reflective thought. Some common features of the “reflective” essay are here discussed and illustrated through examples from Nilson’s essays. Above all, the reflective essay represents freedom from and opposition against scientific and systematic forms of thinking and writing. In Nilson’s writing, this search for freedom has resulted in myths, fantasies and speculation confronting a scientific ideal of reason and scepticism. Another typical feature of this type of essay is its personal orientation and its focus on the personality of the essayist (or rather the persona or public representation of him or her through the text). Nilson’s persona is ambiguous; on the one hand, it represents the trained scientist and learned astronomer, on the other hand, he is engaged in a complex role play with several fictive identities. Furthermore, an important aspect of the reflective essay is its tendency to portray the image of the essayist in the process of thinking. Nilson’s essays are strongly associative; they seem to be made up by the constant flow of the author’s thoughts, which is of course an effect accomplished by literary means. In sum, the essays of Peter Nilson are meditations and ponderings on the implications of science for everyday life, as well as accounts of the human fascination for myths and legendary figures. His essayistic writing could be described as fragmentary, repetitive and simultaneous: in his essays, he tries to say everything at once. For the author, essayistic writing represents a quest for truth and meaning taking place at the borders of thought, through the confrontation of opposing perspectives.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2008. Vol. 129, 239-269 p.
Peter Nilson, svensk essäistik, persona
Humanities General Literature Studies
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-45327Local ID: 81390OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-45327DiVA: diva2:266189