Stress As a Literary Strategy – Now Available for Download

In Stress in literature by Camilla

The Danish (and so far only) version of my recently accepted master thesis, granting me the title Master of Arts (finally!) is available for download via Academia.edu. I hope some of you might find it of interest!

The English title of the paper is Stress as a Literary Strategy, although, the Danish title, I must admit, has a better ring to it, Fri mig for stresssymptomerne, shhh thereby quoting one of the poets, analysed in the thesis, Lars Skinnebach.

Below you will find the abstract of my thesis, hopefully bringing you some insight as to what the thesis is about.

Stress is one of the most significant causes of illness in modern society; a consequence of a disharmonious connection between the individual and the surroundings. This thesis’s pivotal objective is to describe how the selected works of Lars Skinnebach, Theis Ørntoft and Ursula Andkjær Olsen articulate stress reactions and determine how they are to be understood according to the context in which they appear. By applying space theory to the works of poetry by Skinnebach, Ørntoft and Andkjær Olsen, it is possible to observe how stress reactions are connected to the notion of presence. The works thematise the idea that movement from one space to another could be a possible means of escaping stress reactions. Stress is a highly subjective state and is the latest diagnosis in the last 200 years of attempting to formalise what is popularly known as modern weariness. This state has become more and more frequent with the acceleration of time, which is occurring as a result of a chronic shortage of time in modern society, as well as the development of new means of communication and transportation. This concept of accelerated time has created a sense of simultaneity that is repeatedly represented in the texts with a confusion between grammatical tenses. Stress is a state with many different symptoms and each stress reaction may differ. This is shown throughout the three poetic works, where aggression, alienation, flickering attention and quick shifts in mood and pace are among the many symptoms of stress. The stress reactions differ a lot in the work of Skinnebach, who writes with a frantic tone of voice, to that of Ørntoft, where his despair is less active and the approaching catastrophe is perceived as having already begun. In the case of Ursula Andkjær Olsen the stress reactions breaks down the barriers between different language, and the solution turns out to be nothing but a linguistic construction. The stress reactions are interpreted as a critique of society in the way that they appear as consequences of the system. This is particularly the case with Skinnebach, whose entire poetic work is embedded in capitalist metaphors. The thesis further discusses the idea that stress reactions can be seen as having subversive potential, protecting the subjects from relinquishment while exploring how this potential can be realised. The critique relates to the ongoing debate on the transition from the Holocene epoch to the Anthropocene age, where humanity is seen as a prime influence on planet change. The structures of the Anthropocene are in alignment with the focus on accelerated time as a cause of stress, drawing the conclusion that humanity, as the most powerful agent in the world, is simultaneously the cause and the victim of the problem. The thesis concludes that stress ought to be seen as less of an individual state and more as a problem in the systems of society.

Keywords: stress, acceleration, society, space theory, capitalism