Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Timely Subjects: Leena Krohn between Universal and Particular

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Timely Subjects: Leena Krohn between Universal and Particular

Article excerpt

   Incipit vita nova

   Dante

WHAT is a gorgonoid?

   Gorgonoidin munahan ei ole silea. Toisin kuin kanamuna se on
   pinnanmuodostukseltaan silmiinpistavan epatasainen. Punertavan
   nahkakuoren alla pullistelee ikaan kuin paksuja nyoreja, jotka
   etaisesti muistuttavat sormia. Taipuisia, moninivelisia sormia,
   jotka ovat kietoutuneet yhteen tai pikemminkin pusertuneet
   nyrkiksi. (Krohn, Matemaattisia 13)

   The egg of the gorgonoid is, of course, not smooth. Unlike a hen's
   egg, its surface texture is noticeably uneven. Under its reddish
   skin bulge what look like thick cords, distantly reminiscent of
   fingers. Flexible, multiply jointed fingers, entwined--or, rather,
   squeezed into a fist. (Krohn, "Gorgonoids" 86)

Is a gorgonoid a living organism or is it inanimate? Does it resemble a human? Does it even live in the same time we do? The language describing the egg suggests that gorgonoids are organic and animate, if possessing a novel reproductive system. Despite the impression the reader gathers from such imagery, gorgonoids are revealed to be inanimate formulations that live on screen. The existence of their "eggs" spans seconds, their "lives" elapse in minutes. Their physiognomy and life span evoke the denizens of computer screensavers; might gorgonoids be a hybrid between the colorful digital fish that swim around dormant monitors and the morphing geometrical forms with which they can be replaced? These creatures engross the narrator in "Gorgonoideja" provoking her to reflect on how gorgonoids' organic appearance can be distinguished from human reality. "Am I like these creatures?" the narrator asks. As she puzzles over this and similar questions, she reflects on the deterioration of her marriage and by comparing her life to the gorgonoids' notices disturbing parallels. As the narrative continues, the gorgonoids' inscrutability gives shape to the narrator's disembodied feeling of objectification in relation to her husband, who has seemingly ceased to recognize her. The narrator's doubts confuse her, and the gorgonoids puzzle her while underscoring her question: What makes me the person I feel I am--when I seem to be a gorgonoid?

I have begun with this gorgonoid fable from Leena Krohn's 1992 collection Matemaattisia olioita [Mathematical Creatures] because salient problems in her literary production arise there and bulge in the text like the ropey tendons that stretch the skin of the gorgonoid egg. Krohn often writes about relations between human subjects and technological pseudo-subjects and considers how technological change generates subjective uncertainty and ethical paradoxes. In doing so, she shuttles between genres often mixing novel and short story, philosophy and children's literature, fiction and essay, as we see in "Gorgonoideja"--an earnest and philosophical personal essay written as fiction. At a glance, Krohn's concern with hybrid beings seems to parallel the hybrid genres in which she writes. Some scholars have argued that her eclectic use of genre indicates that she is a postmodernist (Karkama 317; Nevala 165-8; Tukiainen 30-41). (1) Yet for Krohn genre is unimportant because imagination and reality cannot be clearly distinguished; the idea that imagination can be circumscribed within a generic structure that reflects a piece of reality makes little sense in her production. (2) Neither can her work be categorized by an aesthetic category. Omnivorous thinking and experience are the points of departure for her writing, which consists of the fluid movement of a wide-ranging, embodied imagination.

For Krohn, imagination is not a ratified autonomous zone free from the concerns of the material world but blended with reality. Whether we remember it, or her characters do, imagination is always embodied and anchored in time. In her view, even in fanciful or horrible scenarios, every person is a thinking, material being living in time: human subjects consist of a combination of mind and body constituted by the dynamic interpenetration of imaginative thought and fleshy corporeality. …

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