An Exploration of Scandinavian Women’s Literature: Revelations from the North


Welcome to Fides Legals Publishing, where we are dedicated to sharing valuable knowledge and stories. In this article, we delve deeper into the history of Scandinavian women’s literature, a fascinating journey through the emergence and evolution of literary works written by remarkable women in the Northern region. We will explore the origins of this aspect, the challenges of and the abundance of hitherto forgotten and neglected material. Let us explore together the stories of these great writers, who were oppressed for centuries by a male-dominated literary norm.

A Thorough Approach

The Origins of Scandinavian Women’s Literature

In 1981, Merete Ries, a Danish publisher, had the visionary idea of publishing a history of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish women writers. Her vision became reality in the form of a five-volume printed publication, which was released in Denmark and Sweden between 1993 and 1998. What began as a focus on three Nordic countries soon evolved into an ambitious project covering the entire Nordic region. It included not only Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but also Iceland, Finland, the Åland Islands, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Sami regions.

The Influence of the Women’s Movement

The inspiration for this project came from the growing strength of the women’s movement in the 1970s. As this movement grew stronger, there was a need for new stories about women’s lives and the republication of writings by female writers who had faded into oblivion. A synergy emerged between the women’s movement, the female readership and many young women at universities, who were inspired by literary works written by women and new literary theories on gender and literature.

Our publication is therefore based on articles written and compiled by university scientists from across the Nordic region. Although the project began outside academic norms, this proved to be an advantage, as deep commitment to the values of the women’s movement drove its success. It has become one of the largest and most successful research projects in the Nordic region.

An Abundance of Neglected Material

All editors and writers involved in this project had experience in traditional literary history. They were used to a continuous list of male writers, with the occasional exception in the form of a queen to confirm the rule that a great writer was always a man. However, many of us had learned this way in our own education, where we engaged with female writers, researched and published their work.

This expansion of horizons about the character of Scandinavian Women’s Literature and what it has to offer readers was invaluable. It became a mission to share these discoveries with future generations and ensure that national literary histories would never again be written without considering the contributions of women writers.

A Meeting with Challenges

Writing this history was no easy task. They faced challenges including funding, dealing with material that had never before been read in its own context, and creating a coherent narrative that meets academic standards but also breaks with the traditional norm for writing literary history.

The focus was on discovering new angles and understanding the role of Scandinavian Women’s Literature in the Nordic region. The approach was radically different from existing literary histories. Instead of following traditional periods, genres and biographies, we organised the material based on the “places”, “consciousness” and “energies” in which women’s literature is created. They wanted the texts to speak and tell their own stories.

A New Approach to Scandinavian Women’s Literature

It was a challenging task to follow this atypical method, but it paid off. They did not want to simply go through the existing literary histories and note the women writers who were missing from them. Instead, they wanted to wait patiently for the framework to gradually emerge as their work progressed. Thus, they discovered new angles and identified the characteristics that isolated a female writer in national context but felt quite natural within a Nordic literary context. These findings led to an innovative approach that put women’s literature at the centre and shed new light on traditional literary historiography.

Women in the Spotlight

The end result was a groundbreaking work in which women writers are at the centre of the historical narrative. The Nordic perspective gave them an important hypothesis that supported their methodology and put Scandinavian women’s literature on the literary map.

Women’s works from the same period contained elements that isolated them nationally because they did not fit within the dominant literary norm. However, when they looked at these works in a Nordic context, they suddenly seemed natural and fit seamlessly into the whole. The Nordic approach revealed new patterns and interactions between motifs, themes and aesthetic qualities. A fantastic confirmation of the success came when Swedish writer Kerstin Ekman (born 1933) thanked them for “freeing her from abnormality”, during the release of the fourth volume.Scandinavian Women's Literature Artist's impression of a Scandinavian author

A Journey through Time and Titles

Each of the five volumes of their work is a story in itself. It began with “In God’s Name,” in which we explored religious perspectives of texts from 1000 to 1800. They then delved into the “Paternal Houses” of the 19th century, where women still insisted on their role as daughters in a patriarchy.

“The Wide World” dealt with the period from 1900 to 1960, when women found their way to education, suffrage and paid work, and their literary work gained a new self-awareness. The fourth volume, “On Earth,” covers the period from 1960 to 1990, during which the title “In the Shadow of Loss” came to mind, but in the end they chose “On Earth”, as a reference to the religious starting point and a secular nod.

The fifth and final volume, “Life and Work,” offers concise biographies of the writers, their major works, and key studies of their writing.

A Beautiful Whole

Finally, they attached great importance to the design of the books. From the start, it was clear that this had to be a visually appealing publication within Scandinavian Women’s Literature The five large-format books are printed on high-quality paper, have an original layout and make creative use of illustrations that tell their own story alongside the text. They are grateful for the support of various organisations that have made this project possible.


At Fides Legals Publishing, we are also proud of our work of the history of Scandinavian women’s literature. This project was born out of collaboration within the women’s movement and has brought to the fore the treasure trove of neglected women’s literature. Our work is a tribute to the extraordinary women who have enriched the Nordic region with their literary contributions. We hope this exploration of Scandinavian women’s literature will inspire future generations and raise awareness about the valuable legacy of women writers.

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Helena Makhmutova

Helena is an expert on book publishing. She hails from Russia. Helena loves books, enjoys sailing, hiking in the mountains and going to the theatre. In addition, cooking is also one of her great passions. With her enthusiasm, charm and professionalism, Helena is a valuable asset.
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