Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Bringing Ibsen's Brand into the Twentieth Century; Cecilie Loveid's Osterrike

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Bringing Ibsen's Brand into the Twentieth Century; Cecilie Loveid's Osterrike

Article excerpt

PERFORMED UNDER the direction of Jon Tombre as part of the 1998 Ibsen Festival held at the National Theater in Oslo, Cecilie Loveid's Osterrike [Austria] is described by its author as "en overmaling" of Ibsen's dramatic poem Brand of 1866. Although a painting over of Ibsen's classic, it is perhaps best classified as a palimpsest or a text written over previous texts that are themselves imperfectly erased and thus seep through into this final text. Playing with Ibsen's classic in this manner has allowed Loveid to place it in new contexts and philosophically interrogate the underpinnings of Western thought, the hierarchical binary oppositions such as good/ evil, active/passive, tragedy/comedy, and male/female. In particular Loveid focuses her attention on the male/female, masculine/feminine oppositions, which, as French theorist Helene Cixous claims in such articles as "Sorties," always places woman in the site of passivity, the Other, and ultimately death.

In this paper, I would like to examine how Loveid exposes the inherent violence in this hierarchical binary oppositional framework and outline how she suggests that an opening up of these oppositional dichotomies is beneficial for the postmodern female subject. In challenging the conceptual framework of Western thought as it does, Osterrike exemplifies the third phase of the feminist movement continuing a dramatic program that characterizes Loveid's earlier work as well. (1) According to Julia Kristeva's "Women's Time," this stage of feminism would place the opposition man/woman in the metaphysical realm and challenge our very notions of sexual identity. It heralds

   an apparent de-dramatization of the "fight to the death" between rival
   groups and thus between the sexes. And this not in the name of some
   reconciliation ... but in order that the struggle, the implacable
   difference, the violence be conceived in the very place where it operates
   with the maximum intransigence, in other words, in personal and sexual
   identity itself, so as to make it disintegrate in its very nucleus.
   (Kristeva 209)

Questioning the patriarchal tradition by exploring the complex processes involved in the linguistic construction of the female subject and problematizing the hierarchical stereotypes in Western culture have been Loveid's principal foci since her literary debut in 1969 in the anthology Atte fra Bergen [Eight From Bergen]. Since that time, her career has been two-fold: the first part concentrating on prose in evermore experimental forms and ending in 1979 with the publication of the novel Sug [Sea Swell]. A shift away from traditional narrative structure, this novel is a polymorphous blend of prose narrative, dramatic dialogue, lyrical elements, and songs brought together in a series of non-linear snapshots that jerk the eye into reappraising what it is seeing, and thus it signaled a move into a more visual means of expression. Since its publication, with the exception of some children's books, (2) Loveid has focused exclusively on the dramatic and performance genres.

With increasing emphasis on the visual, oral, aural, and spatial aspects of her texts, Loveid's dramatic work exemplifies a postmodern experimentation in the tradition of neo-expressionist, avant-garde theater. As such, her theater challenges the psychological realism of the Norwegian Ibsen tradition and heralds a new way of understanding the theatrical text, one which often places Loveid at odds both with theatrical institutions and audiences alike. As "den som sterkest har utfordret Ibsen-tradisjonen i nyere norsk dramatikk" (Arntzen 60) [the person who has most strongly challenged the Ibsen tradition in recent Norwegian drama], Loveid has nevertheless also revealed an indebtedness to the father of modern drama. Not only is there much intertextual referencing of Ibsen, but in an analysis of Loveid's Tiden mellom tidene [The Time between the Times], Atle Kittang also notes a close connection to Ibsen's Bygmester Solness [The Master Builder]. …

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