The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language
10. French in Sweden in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
It is well known that the use of French was widespread in Sweden, as elsewhere in Europe, and that famous figures such as Queen Christina (who reigned from 1644 until her abdication in 1654), Gustav III (reigned 1771–92) and, in the nineteenth century, the playwright, novelist, poet and essayist August Strindberg authored works in French. The growing predilection for French can also be seen from the sale of English literature in eighteenth-century Sweden: 40 per cent of the English works featuring in advertisements of book sales between 1765 and 1799 were in French translation as opposed to just 14 per cent in the period 1700–64.1 But how may we explain Swedish francophonie? What forms did it take? Which strata of the Swedish population used French the most and for what purposes?
In this chapter I shall approach the subject of Swedish francophonie from various viewpoints. I shall begin with a few remarks on historical context in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the heyday of francophonie in Sweden, in order to provide some points of reference. Next, I shall examine the teaching of French and analyse the francophone population of Sweden from a sociological point of view. I shall then introduce the principal genres and domains in which we find writings in French produced by ← 273 | 274 → Swedes and offer a few remarks on the linguistic quality of Swedes’ French. I shall end with a glance at Swedish reactions to French influence, of which the use of...
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