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Gunnar Ekelöf’s open-form poem A mölna elegy : problems of genesis, structure and influence Thygesen, Erik


After being "work in progress" for nearly 23 years, Gunnar Ekelӧf’s long; "Waste Land" poem or quotation-mosaic A Mӧlna Elegy appeared in 1960. For the purposes of this study I have had access to the original manuscripts, notebooks and letters of Gunnar Ekelӧf. Part I As is also the case with T. S. Eliot's: The Waste Land, the critical appraisal of Gunnar Ekelӧf's open-form poem A Mӧlna Elegy has been marked by the dominance of a holistic approach to literature; the work has accordingly been described! either as chaotic and structureless and seen as reflecting Ekelӧf's evolving, contradictory views of art during the long period of genesis or the attempt has been made to reconcile the: chaotic impression which the poem makes with the traditional criterion of "textual, unity" by recourse to: the notion of musical structure or to the idea of the lyrical "I" as focal point and unifying principle. The first part of this: study has been devoted to: an examination of those extrinsic elements in Ekelӧf's world view and aesthetics which motivated his use of the open structure in A Mӧlna. Elegy: his aesthetics of the indistinct and interest in the: active reader role his aesthetics of the incomplete. Works by Egbert Faas, Umberto Eco and Fritjof Capra have provided the conceptual framework for the notion of the open-form, i.e. of Western art forms which make use of trains of thought common to Eastern mysticism and modern physics and to which the traditional notion of "organic unity" is not germane. Part II The second half of this study concerns itself with an exploration of the question of the supposed influence of T. S. Eliot on Gunnar Ekelӧf, the subject of considerable debate among Swedish critics; the centre of interest has been the possible influence of Eliot's Four Quartets on Ekelӧf's collection Ferry Song (1941) and, more importantly, the possible influence of The Waste Land on A Mӧlna Elegy. Several aspects of the Eliot-Ekelӧf interference hypothesis have been examined: the history of Eliot's supposed influence on Ekelӧf in critical circles; Ekelӧf's reception of Eliot-Ekelӧf’s attitude towards the concept of "influence"; his views on the question of his supposed dependency on Eliot; textual similarities in Ekelӧf's work which could conceivably be put forward in support of the Eliot-Ekelӧf influence hypothesis.

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