Moms on the Run: Mothers Who Leave Their Families in Twenty-First Century Swedish Literature

What does it mean that so many mothers leave their families in twenty-first century Swedish literature, and what can these novels teach us about motherhood and family in Sweden today? These questions form the point of departure for this project which explores these literary representations of mothers who leave in relation to sociopolitical discourses on motherhood, family, and gender equality in contemporary Sweden. Through surface reading, close reading and contextualizing reading I analyze the novels and investigate why the mothers leave and how they are portrayed. I use statistics, policy documents and previous research in for instance sociology and anthropology to map sociopolitical discourses, and investigate how these discourses operate in the novels and how the novels respond to them. Out of this, I analyze the ambivalence to motherhood itself that emerges in the novels. While Sweden is usually seen as one of the best countries in the world to start a family, the novels about mothers who leave their families point to something else, not visible in statistics and policy documents, namely ambivalence to motherhood and critique of the hegemonic status of the nuclear family.

Contact: Jenny Björklund