Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was an extremely prolific writer who, in his native Norway, is known not only as an important playwright but also as the author of a number of widely read peasant stories (short novels). He also wrote longer novels and a large number of essays, articles, and speeches. In addition, he was a prodigious letter writer; more than thirty thousand of his letters are known. His best poems were first collected in the volume Digte og sange (1870; Poems and Songs, 1915).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

A public figure of great importance throughout most of his life, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was a creative writer, a journalist, and a politician. Even though he never ran for office, he had considerable influence on both the formation of the Liberal party in Norway and liberal politics for more than half a century. Many of his articles and speeches are political in nature.

Bjørnson was also the creator of modern Norwegian prose style, and his short novel Synnøve solbakken (1857; Trust and Trial, 1858) is considered the first modern novel in Norwegian literature. Together with Henrik Ibsen, he originated the modern drama in Scandinavia, and was regarded by his contemporaries as Scandinavia’s greatest man of letters.

During his lifetime, Bjørnson was well-known both in Germany and in the English-speaking world; even today he is thought of as second only to Ibsen as a representative of Norwegian literature. In his native land, he is known by young and old both as a writer of peasant stories and as the author of Norway’s national anthem.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Beyer, Harald. “The Young Bjørnson.” In A History of Norwegian Literature, edited and translated by Einar Haugen. New York: New York University Press for the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1956. Examines the author’s early tales and dramas.

Boyesen, Hjalmar Hjorth. Essays on Scandinavian Literature. 1911. Reprint. New York: B. Blom, 1972. Examines the works of Björnson, Alexander Kielland, Jonas Lie, Hans Christian Andersen, Georg Brandes, and Esaias Tegnér.

Gustafson, Alrik. “The Scandinavian Countries.” In A History of Modern Drama, edited by Barrett H. Clark and George Freedley. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1947. A complete survey of Bjørnson’s plays.

Larson, Harold. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: A Study in Norwegian Nationalism. New York: King’s Crown Press, 1944. The standard comprehensive study.

McFarlane, James Walter. “Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.” In Ibsen and the Temper of Norwegian Literature. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1979. Examines the major themes in his works.

Naess, Harald S., ed. A History of Norwegian Literature. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press in cooperation with the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1993. This overview of Norwegian literature touches on Bjørnson and provides a context for understanding this author and his works. Bibliography and index.

Noreng, Harald. “Bjørnson Research: A Survey.” Scandinavica 4 (May, 1965). A detailed listing of sources. Also discusses Bjørnson’s undiminished importance.

Norwegian-American Historical Association, ed. Land of the Free: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s American Letters, 1880-1881, by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Northfield, Minn.: Editor, 1978. The introduction to this collection of letters and speeches written by Bjørnson during his trip to the United States presents pertinent biographical information. An epilogue discusses the effect the trip had on Bjørnson’s subsequent writings. Bibliography.

Payne, William Morton. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, 1832-1910. Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1910. Includes a list of works.

Roftem, Øystein. “The Multifamous Bjørnson.” Scandinavica 24 (May, 1985). Review of the jubilee edition of the complete works.

Sehmsdorf, Henning K. “The Self in Isolation: A New Reading of Bjørnson’s Arne.” Scandinavian Studies 45, no. 4 (1973): 310-323. An examination of one of Bjørnson’s novels that sheds light on themes in his dramatic works.