Skip to main content

Birgitta Johansson Lindh


Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and
Visiting address
Renströmsgatan 6
41255 Göteborg
Room number
Postal address
Box 200
40530 Göteborg

About Birgitta Johansson Lindh


Birgitta Johansson, PhD in Comparative Literature with a specialization in theatre, is a scholar and a teacher at LIR. Johansson has recently finished the research project "Emotion and liberation – sentimental and melodramatic elements in women’s socio-realistic plays of the modern breakthrough", which was financed by the Swedish research fund Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ). She has also been a part of a collaborative research project about the European and American reception of works by five Swedish women authors. The results have recently been published in Swedish Women’s Writing on Export. Tracing the Transnational Reception in the Nineteenth Century (2019).  

Research Interests

  • Swedish Theatre history (19th and 20th century)
  • Aesthetics and Ideology
  • Theatre and Gender
  • Drama and Performance analysis
  • Reception and Criticism

Current Research

I am involved in a research collaboration linked to the EU- network “Women Writers in History”. Together with colleagues from universities in Bucharest and Turku, I am organizing the workshop “Rethinking Intimacy in Women's Reading and Writing at the Peripheries of Europe” at the University of Gothenburg in March 26-27, 2020. The work shop aims at forming a point of departure for joint European research on intimacy in women's writing and reading 1700 –1900, based on new theory formation. At the center is the question of how intimacy, as a topic and a strategy of writing and reading, travelled across national and cultural boundaries. How did it transform due to different cultures and religions.

Currently I am also working on a theater historical project in which I follow Anne Charlotte Leffler's play Sanna Kvinnor (True Women) (1883) in the traces across the European theater landscape 1883-1925. Performances at very different venues are included, such as the staging of the play in a gym in a small Swedish town and rehearsals at an avant-garde theater in London: How was the play perceived of in different contexts and what changes were made? How did a play by a female playwright from a minor language area travel? The project aims at writing theatre history from the perspective of the margins. By so doing the picture of European theater activities during the decades around the turn of the 1900s will be broadened.  

Earlier Research

1. Emotion and liberation – sentimental and melodramatic elements in women’s socio-realistic plays of the modern breakthrough

The aim of the project was to reintroduce Swedish drama of the modern breakthrough, by illuminating how elements of a sentimental and melodramatic theatrical tradition are constructed and evaluated in socially realistic plays written about marriage by women in the 1880’s. How does the emphasis on emotion contribute to ideas of liberation? What discourses on gender and modernity do the sentimental and melodramatic features help generate? 

The  gender critical dramatic works by Alfhild Agrell, Victoria Benedictsson and Anne Charlotte Leffler were popular at Scandinavian Theatres in the 1880's and generated interest in other parts Europe mainly during the 1880’s and 1890’s. Nevertheless,they have been depreciated because of the sentimental and melodramatic features in their plays and although academic analyzes of their structure is scarce.

A sentimental and melodramatic tradition influenced European theatre throughout the 19th century. Hence, a mode of interpretation that focuses on the function of the sentimental and melodramatic features is important in order to show the distinctive dramaturgical and thematic character of these plays, and to illuminate the role of their authors as cultural intermediaries of ideas abour gender and marriage.  

2. Swedish Women's writing on Export in the 19th century

Part of my research has been conducted in cooperation with a group of researchers at LIR ( Prof. Åsa Arping, Assoc. Prof. Jenny Bergenmar,  Prof. Gunilla Hermansson and Professor Yvonne Leffler). This concerns the reception of Swedish women authors in the 19th century. The aim of our common project was to map and analyze Swedish Women authors’ transnational networks and international breakthroughs, and to develop theory and methods for the purpose. The research results has been published in Swedish Women’s Writing on Export. Tracing the Transnational Reception in the Nineteenth Century (2019)  My contribution mapped the European reception of Anne Charlotte Leffler’s plays in translations and theatre productions. The research project received funding from the Swedish Research Councils (VR).

To the web page "Swedish Women Writers on Export"


3. Turning Points and Continuity: The Changing Roles of Performance in Society 1880-1925 

Within the frames of the research project ”Turning Points and Continuity” I investigated how the play Sanna kvinnor (True Women) by Anne Charlotte Leffler  was recieved at Scandinavian Theatres and in news paper-reviews in the two laste decades of the 19th century. Methods of dealing with reviews as source material are developed. An analysis of how the affective reactions of the reviewers structure the evalutiaons of the opening night at the Royal Dramatic Theatre  is conducted. Another analysis highlights what happened to the feminism of the play when the popular male actor Emil Hillberg made the antagonistic role his bravura performance. 

Seven scholars from different disciplines has taken part in the research project ”Turning Points and Continuity”, which was led by prof. Lena Hammergren at The University of Stockholm. The over all aim was to revisit and re-interpret a period celebrated as the breakthrough of modern theatre by approaching archival material from an appreciative look at the many aesthetic layers that worked in tandem with the emergence of the early avant garde. The research project received funding from The Swedish Research Councils (VR).

To the web page ”Turning Points and Continuity”


4. The thesis Befrielsen är nära. Feminism och teaterpraktik i Margareta Garpes och Suzanne Ostens 1970-talsteater (Liberation is At Hand. Feminism and Theatrical Practice in Margareta Garpe’s and Suzanne Osten’s Theatre of the 1970’s)

The thesis apperad in 2006 and deals with three of Garpe’s and Osten’s productions, of which Jösses flickor! Befrielsen är nära (Gosh Girls! Liberation is At Hand) is the most well known. The thesis illuminates the linkage in these productions between avant-garde theatre and the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970’s. It highlights the manner in which Garpe and Osten used the medium of the theatre to raise consciousness in audiences, creating new patterns of identification for women. It also explores the ways in which the identity politics of the Women’s Liberation Movement influenced and developed their use of theatrical strategies. Structures of communication in the production, the performances and the reviiews in daily newspapers are explored. The thesis was part of the research project “The Power of Art: the Texts of the Swedish Women’s Liberation Movement 1970 – 2000”, which was funded by the Swedish Research Council and concluded in 2005.

Networks and cooperation

I participate in the European project Women Writers in History . The primary aim of the network has been to develop a database concerning the reception of women’s literature before the 20th century. Within the network European scholars cooperate in projects on women’s literature, the transnational dissemination and reception of it and on women’s roles as intermediaries of ideas.


Since autumn 2006, I have been involved in teaching elementary, advanced and teacher training courses in Theatre Studies and Literature. In 2011-2012, I was Director of Studies in Theatre Studies and Literature. During the period 2006–2009 I also taught courses in Literature, Creative Writing and Dramaturgy at the University of Skövde in Sweden. In 2006-2012 I wrote theatrical reviews in the Swedish daily paper Svenska Dagbladet.