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Deviant Women

Cultural, Linguistic and Literary Approaches to Narratives of Femininity

Edited By Tiina Mäntymäki, Marinella Rodi-Risberg and Anna Foka

This multidisciplinary collection of articles illuminates the ways in which the concept of female deviance is represented, appropriated, re-inscribed and refigured in a wide range of texts across time, cultures and genres. Such a choice of variety shows that representations of deviance accommodate meaning-making spaces and possibilities for resistance in different socio-cultural and literary contexts. The construct of the deviant woman is analysed from literary, sociolinguistic and historical-cultural perspectives, revealing insights about cultures and societies. Furthermore, the studies recognise and explain the significance of the concept of deviance in relation to gender that bespeaks a contemporary cultural concern about narratives of femininity.
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A Deviant in the Arctic

Extract

← 170 | 171 → Anka Ryall

Abstract

This chapter deals with female deviancy as represented in several narratives inspired by a young female Norwegian geologist named Brit Hofseth (1917–41). Her participation on an expedition to Northeast Greenland in the summer of 1939 became the topic of conflicting accounts. While a novel based on the expedition recasts her as a man-eating femme fatale, she was commemorated as a pioneering woman professional in posthumous tributes by fellow geologists. Both versions may be understood in terms of the history of women in Arctic exploration.

In 1941, the Norwegian author Nils Johan Rud (1908–93) published Drivende Grenser (Drifting Borders), a novel with a female polar scientist as its main character. The book was closely based on Rud’s participation, as a journalist, on an expedition to Northeast Greenland in the summer of 1939 on the Arctic vessel the Polarbjørn (Polar bear). Among the passengers was a young female geologist named Brit Hofseth, who travelled alone to do independent fieldwork on Clavering Island. Clearly deviating from the norms of mid-twentieth-century domestic femininity, Hofseth is recast in Rud’s novel as the attractive botanist Norunn, a more conventional kind of deviant woman, who shamelessly uses her sexuality to ensnare more than one of the men on board, including the book’s first-person narrator. Her death at the end of the novel symbolically affirms the anomaly of women in the homosocial and masculinist environment of an Arctic expedition.

As I hope...

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