Porträttbild av Elisabeth Hjorth
Photo: Maja-Kristin Nylander

5 questions for Elisabeth Hjorth, new professor of literary composition


Today it was announced that Elisabeth Hjorth has been awarded the title of professor in literary composition. In connection with this, we took the opportunity to ask a few quick questions about her research, which has attracted a lot of media attention.

1. How would you describe your research?

"My research concerns the practice of writing, which means, a multitude of aspects of what a writer does: reading, remembering, waiting, thinking, being alone, losing the thread and courage, being together, doubting, drawing conclusions, to hope and fail and start over. Ore simply put - working with words. Thematically, my research interests are language and power, feminism and representation, writing and ethics, the essay as form, the novel as negotiation and neurodiversity in relation to literary form."

2. What made you choose this particular subject and specialization?

"My research topics coincide to a large extent with my literary interests, I work on largely the same questions but in different ways. Researching literary design, I think, has to do with curiosity about how something is written, not just what is written. I think that almost every day I am faced with phenomena that would be exciting to explore, but some motifs are, after all, closer to my heart."

3. The course "Autistic writing and reading" has now been running for a few weeks, has it turned out as you had imagined so far?  Can you already see something else then what you expected from the students? 

"When planning the course, we tried not to have too many expectations, but to stay open to what could happen. However, we thought carefully about the course structure and exposed ourselves to the tasks we intended to give to the students. We had a lot of applicants so we knew the students would be motivated and literate, but what has struck me over the past few weeks is how well the conversations regarding text have turned out. I think it has to do with the knowledge that already exists in the group, about autistic awareness and language use, and which comes into its own when the students don't have to adapt to the neurotypical gaze all the time."

4. Your research has received a lot of attention in the media, was this something you expected? Why do you think the subject attracts media interest?

"It's hard to know exactly what sparks interest. The essay Mutant, which came out of the research project "The Double Bind. The novel as (peace) negotiation” was noticed perhaps because I changed my previous academic writing to an essay form where I treated my sources of knowledge on a more equal level. The project "Autistic writing: reclaiming, reloading another mother tongue" raises questions because the neurodiversity perspective is quite new in Sweden. The idea that autistic people themselves should have influence over research, pedagogy and language that applies to them as a group is beyond the reach of many. In addition, artistic research methods and fields of knowledge are still relatively unknown. While researchers have a responsibility to show how questions can be asked based on the premises of the artistic work, it can clash with the format and dynamics that characterize the media. I think many researchers are very aware of that conflict."

5. Do you have anything else exciting that you want to share with you, something that is in the works? 

"I am currently involved in issues related to ethics and artistic research. Ethical reflection is often part of artistic processes and research projects, how can it contribute knowledge to other fields and what can we learn from the work with ethics in other disciplines? A mission as an employee at a university is to promote democratic values ​​and respect for the equal value of all people, which is a task more relevant than ever. For my own part, I long to write a new novel!"

Finally – congratulations, you were promoted to professor this fall!

"Thanks! As a professor of literary composition, I continue my work as a teacher on the master's program and to develop the subject together with my fantastic colleagues. In addition to supervising students and doctoral students, I hope to be able to plan more research projects in the future. Preferably ones that are brave, caring and relevant."