August Strindberg wrote nearly two dozen novels, many of which are autobiographical; several volumes of short stories and poems; and more than twenty book-length essays, including writings about the history of Sweden, philosophy, religion, language, and dramatic theory. In addition to the individual Swedish-and English-language editions of Strindberg’s work, translated selections appear in The Strindberg Reader (1968), edited by Arvid Paulson, and Inferno, Alone and Other Writings (1968), edited by Evert Sprinchorn.
Tremendously influential in both Europe and the United States, August Strindberg was begrudgingly praised by Henrik Ibsen as one who would be greater than he, and more generously lauded half a century later by Eugene O’Neill as the writer to whom the American playwright owed his greatest debt. Although Strindberg wrote some seventy dramatic pieces, he is best known outside his native Sweden for a small number of plays that represent the range of his achievement. Of these, The Father, Miss Julie, A Dream Play, and The Ghost Sonata have earned for Strindberg his stature alongside Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and George Bernard Shaw as a seminal figure in the first stage (1880-1920) of modern drama.
Strindberg’s intensity and versatility are generally considered as much a product of his own neuroses as of his literary genius. The turbulent male-female relationships that his plays portray are commonly accepted as the playwright’s expression of his own ambivalent feelings toward women, just as his treatment of the class conflict would seem to have its impulse in his domestic position as “the son of a servant.” His late, expressionistic plays, written after a period of intense despair and nonproductivity, reflect the emphasis on atonement that characterizes Strindberg’s later writing.
Aside from the provocative autobiographical content of his work, however, Strindberg’s achievement rests on his perfection of the naturalistic form, his extension of that form into an imaginative forum for modern psychology, and his movement from dramatic realism to expressionism.
Most of Strindberg’s plays that were translated into English and published early in the century are no longer in print. There are, however, a number of more recent translations that have appeared in collections, including, among others, Elizabeth Sprigge’s Six Plays (1955), Arvid Paulson’s Eight Expressionist Plays (1965), and the translations of Strindberg’s drama by Walter Johnson.
August Strindberg was an extremely prolific writer whose collected works total fifty-five volumes. Outside Scandinavia, he is known chiefly as a dramatist, and many of his plays—such as Fadren (pr., pb. 1887; The Father, 1899), Fröken Julie (pb. 1888; Miss Julie, 1912), and Ett drömspel (pb. 1902; A Dream Play, 1912)—continue to be performed regularly in many parts of the world. Strindberg also wrote several collections of shorter prose pieces; two volumes of short stories titled Giftas I (1884) and Giftas II (1886; Married, 1913; also known as Getting Married, 1973, which includes both Giftas I and Giftas II) are particularly well known. He also wrote and published poetry throughout his life.
August Strindberg is known throughout the world as one of the fathers of modern drama. In his native Sweden, and increasingly abroad as well, he is also known as a psychological novelist of considerable importance. His second novel, The Red Room, is considered the first modern novel in Swedish literature, and another of his novels, The Natives of Hemsö, is still one of the best-loved books in Sweden.
Strindberg has also appealed to the smaller audience of the literary establishment. Considered Sweden’s greatest writer of belles lettres, he has remained the object of critical attention both in his homeland and abroad. All of his important works have been translated into English, and his reputation has long been securely established.
What do feminist critics have to say about the women in August Strindberg’s plays?
What later dramatists have been most interested in Strindberg’s favorite themes?
To what extent can the traits of Strindberg’s expressionistic plays be related to expressionism as seen in other arts, such as painting?
Were Strindberg’s own experiences with women the basis of his preoccupation with troubled sexual relationships?
Was Strindberg primarily a subjective dramatist?
Carlson, Harry Gilbert. Out of “Inferno”: Strindberg’s Reawakening as an Artist. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. A study of the change in Strindberg’s literary works after his publication of Inferno. Includes bibliography and index.
Ekman, Hans-Göran. Strindberg and the Five Senses: Studies in Strindberg’s Chamber Plays. Somerset, N.J.: Transaction, 2000. A critical analysis of Strindberg’s chamber plays, with particular emphasis on the five senses. Includes bibliography and index.
Lagercrantz, Olof. August Strindberg. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1984.
Marker, Frederick J., and Christopher Innes, eds. Modernism in European Drama: Ibsen, Strindberg, Pirandello, Beckett. Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1998. A collection of essays from Modern Drama published between 1963 and 1994 on modernism in the dramatic works of Strindberg, Henrik Ibsen, Luigi Pirandello, and Samuel Beckett. Includes bibliography and index.
Martinus, Eivor. Strindberg and Love. Charlbury, Oxford, England: Amber Lane Press, 2001. A study of Strindberg’s relations with women, including how they manifested in his literary works. Includes bibliography and index.
Robinson, Michael, ed. Strindberg and Genre. Norwich, England: Norvik Press, 1991. A good selection of essays on Strindberg’s literary form. Includes bibliographical references and an index.
Robinson, Michael. Studies in Strindberg. Norwich: Norvik Press, 1998. A critical analysis and interpretation of the literary works of Strindberg. Bibliography and index.
Robinson, Michael, and Sven Hakon Rossel, eds. Expressionism and Modernism: New Approaches to August Strindberg. Vienna: Edition Praesens, 1999. A collection of papers from the Thirteenth International Strindberg Conference, Linz Austria, October, 1997, and one essay from the Internationale Strindberg-Tage, Vienna, October, 1997, that examine the literary works of Strindberg. Includes bibliography and index.
Steene, Birgitta, ed. Strindberg and History. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1992. Examines the theme of history in Strindberg’s works.
Törnqvist, Egil. Strindberg’s “The Ghost Sonata”: From Text to Performance. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2000. An in-depth analysis of Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata. Includes bibliography and index.
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