The Pre-modern Strindberg. Sex, Gender, Sexuality


  • Ann-Sofie Lönngren


Strindberg, queer theory, history, erotic triangles


In this article the claim is made that some of the representations of “sex”, “gender”, and “sexuality” in Strindberg’s authorship point to the influence of pre-modern discourses rather than modern ones. First, there is a discussion about the pre-modern influences on the sex-gender distinction in Creditors (1888) and There Are Crimes and Crimes (1899), an analysis which shows that in these texts, “sex” is perceived as one rather than two, and, moreover, organized hierarchically rather than dichotomously. Furthermore, it is argued that in these texts, “gender”, in fact, supersedes “sex”, something that is understood within the theoretical frameworks provided by, for example, Thomas Laqueur, Maja Bondestam and Carol Clover. Secondly, it is argued that in Playing with Fire (1892) and other texts, the definition of gender is intimately linked to the sexual desires represented in Strindberg’s authorship. This points to influences from what, for example, R.A. Nye has claimed to be pre-modern understandings of gender and sexuality as a unit rather than two distinct concepts, adding a historical perspective to the play between norm and subversion in the fictional texts. Also on a more general level, for example, in Getting Married, Parts I and II (1894, 1896), “sexuality” seems to be phrased according to the difference previously pointed out by Michel Foucault, as acts (pre-modern discourse) rather than identity (modern discourse). In addition, it is argued that when discussing the (for Strindberg) burning question of feminism, pre-modern and modern discourses are simultaneously employed. Finally, it is concluded that the co-existence, collision, conflict, and merge of different paradigms concerning sex, gender and sexuality are part of the complexity and enigmatic attraction in Strindberg’s authorship. It is also noted that the interest in the relationship between body, matter and discourse that motivates this article is in line with not only contemporary perspectives in posthumanism, transgender studies and new feminist materialism but also with Strindberg’s own concerns.