Thure Stenström

Professor emeritus at Department of Literature and Rhetoric

+4618-471 6180
Visiting address:
Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3 P

Postal address:
Box 632
751 26 UPPSALA

Academic Curriculum Vitae

Thure Stenström, born in 1927, was Chair Professor of Literature at Uppsala University between 1971 and 1993. He taught Scandinavian and Comparative Literature as a Visiting Professor at Harvard in 1968-69. Since his retirement he has remained active as a scholar, both in Uppsala and in various Scandinavian academies. He belongs to the Royal Academy of Letters in Stockholm and its counterparts in Copenhagen and Oslo. His bibliography 1940–2013, available in bookform (up to 2001) and updated in the database DIVA, contains almost one thousand items.

As for his research interests he has concentrated mainly on philosophy and leading ideas in French and Scandinavian literature and is, according to The Swedish National Encyclopaedia, at present considered as “a leading figure in the Swedish literary history of ideas”. His publishing list includes major works on European and Scandinavian existentialism and writers such as Eyvind Johnson, Lars Gyllensten and Ingemar Hedenius. Some works have also been devoted to the interrelationship between music, particularly church music, and literature.

Work in Progress

Lars Gyllensten (1901‒2006), Professor of Medicine at the Caroline Institute and for many years Secretary of the Swedish Academy, made his literary début towards the end of the 1940ies and published his last book in 2004. In most of his more than 40 works, essays as well as fiction, he was more or less absorbed with the problem of death. But his intricate, often philosophically formulated thanatology, has so far not been given much attention by Swedish scholars or literary critics.

To find an appropriate way of interpreting the meaning of life and death was Gyllensten´s leading endeavor. And the two were linked together: his search for a viable modus moriendi (way to die) was closely combined with his quest for a tenable modus vivendi (way to live). My essay gives a survey of the death-motif, as it appears in almost all of his novels and essays, and tries to find out his predominant attitudes toward death. It argues, that Gyllensten in his youth voices a violent and rebellious protest against the powerlessness of all human beings, when towards the end of our existence we are exposed to suffering and ultimate annihilation. But in the 1960ies and 1970ies this defiant repudiation of death gives way to a more relaxed and gentle attitude. To a great extent inspired by his compatriot Emanuel Swedenborg, Gyllensten is now groping for some sort of reconciliation with death. Nothingness, very often a symbol of divine supremacy in Gyllensten´s universe, is no longer scaring but graceful.

To be published as a contribution to an anthology towards the end of spring 2015.


As can be seen from his publication list, Stenström has over the years collaborated with Scandinavianists in Paris, London, Prague, Copenhagen and Oslo. He has lectured at Harvard as well as in Paris, London, Prague, Zurich, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Madison, Copenhagen, Oslo, Reykjavík, Helsinki and Åbo.

Since 1963 he has contributed to the Svenska Dagbladet with more than 240 lenghty essays “under the line” (understreckare) concerning various cultural issues and achievements within the fields of French, English, German and Scandinavian scholarship. Many of these essays also deal with music and with the cultural history of his native province, the island of Gotland in the Baltic. For further information, see the Uppsala University data base of DIVA.

Degrees, Appointments, Awards and Distinctions

Candidate of the Humanities (Scandinavian Languages, English, Philosophy and Comparative Literature) 1950, Master of Arts 1951, Licentiate of Literature 1957, Doctor of Philosophy 1961, all at Uppsala University

University lecturer and Assistant Professor of Scandinavian and Comparative Literature at Uppsala University 1960

Associate Professor (Docent) at Uppsala University1961-1968

Visiting Professor of Scandinavian and Comparative Literature at Harvard University 1968-69
Research fellow at the Swedish Research Council 1970-71

Full Professor of Literature and Chair holder (Litteraturvetenskap) at Uppsala University 1971-1993

President of The Swedish Society for Scholarly Research (Svenska Litteratursällskapet) 1975-85

Elected member of the Royal Society of Humanities (Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskaps-Samfundet i Uppsala) 1973, President 1987-88

Elected member of the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala (Kungl. Vetenskaps-Societeten i Uppsala) 1979, President 1992-1993

Elected member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities (Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitetsakademien, Stockholm), 1984

Elected member of The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen 1982 (Det kgl Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Kbhvn).

Elected member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo 1993 (Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi, Oslo)

Has been awarded The Schück Prize (by The Swedish Academy), The Warburg Prize (Academy of Letters), The Letterstedt Award ( Academy of Sciences), A special award from the Academy of the Nine (Samfundet De Nio) for “outstanding achievements within the fields of literature and culture “, His Majesty the King´s Gold Medal (8th size), The Rudbeck Medal from Uppsala University (“for scholarly excellence”) and Ordre des Palmes académiques from the French government.

Honorary Doctor of Divinity at Uppsala University in 1999


Major Works
Den ensamme. En motivstudie i det moderna genombrottets litteratur (Doctoral thesis, Uppsala Univ.) Sthlm: Natur & Kultur 1961
(The theme of solitude in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish literature of the 1870ies, 1880ies and 1890ies. With a summary in French)

Existentialismen. Studier i dess idétradition och litterära yttringar [Sthlm: Natur & Kultur 1966], 4:th edition Sthlm: Almqvist & Wiksell International 1991.
(Existentialism. Studies of its philosophical tradition and its literary repercussions from Kierkegaard to Sartre)

Existentialismen i Sverige. Mottagande och inflytande 1900-1950. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Historia literarum 13, Sthlm: Almqvist & Wiksell 1984.
(Existentialism in Sweden, Reception and Influence 1900-1950. With a Summary in French).

Romantikern Eyvind Johnson. Tre studier. Sthlm: Walter Ekstrand bokförlag 1978
(The romantic strain in Eyvind Johnson´s writings. Three essays dealing with music and musical allusions in his novels, his approach to suffering and adversities and his political utopianism. With a Summary in English)

Gyllensten i hjärtats öken. Strövtåg i Lars Gyllenstens författarskap, särskilt Grottan i öknen. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Historia litterarum 19, Uppsala 1996
(Gyllensten in the Desert of the Heart. A Survey of Lars Gyllensten´s Literary Works, with special reference to his novel “The Cave in the Desert”. With a Summary in German)

I alma maters tjänst. En Uppsalaprofessor ser tillbaka. Memoarer, Sthlm: Atlantis 2004
(At the service of Alma mater. An Uppsalaprofessor looking back at his life as a university teacher and scholar. Memoirs)

Ingemar Hedenius heliga rum: Sofokles – Kierkegaard – Mozart. Svenska Litteratursällskapets i Uppsala skriftserie nr 50, Sthlm 2011
(The sacred spaces of Ingemar Hedenius. A Swedish philosopher and his admiration of Sophocles, Kierkegaard and Mozart. With a Summary in English)

Utsikter och insikter, Litteraturvetenskapliga institutionen, Uppsala universitet, Meddelanden nr 9, Uppsala 2014
(A collection of essays from the last 50 years)

Selected Minor Works
“Le courant existential suédois. Contexte international et traits spécifiques” ( in: Nouvelles de la Républiques des Lettres, Naples: Prismi 1986: II ,p. 125-141)

“Y a-t-il un mouvement des années 40 commun au Danemark, à la Suède et à la Norvège?” (in: Revue de Littérature Comparée, Littératures Scandinaves Avril-Juin 1988. No. 2, Paris: Didier Eribon, p. 223-244)

“Les relations culturelles franco-suédoises de 1870 à 1900” (dans: Une amitié millenaire, Les relations entre la France et la Suède à travers les âges, publ. sous l´égide de l´Académie Royale Suédoise des Belles-Lettres, de l´Histoire et des Antiquités, avec un Avant-propos par M. le Président Stig Strömholm , Paris: Beauchesne 1993, p. 289-329).

”Bach på svenska, Om Matteuspassionen som svenskt ordkonstverk”. With a Summary in English: Bach in Swedish. /The Swedish translations of Picander´s libretto to the St Matthew Passion by J. S. Bach./ (in: Analytica. Studies in honour of Ingmar Bengtsson 2 March 1985, Publications issued by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, No. 47, Sthlm: Kungl.Musikaliska akademien 1985, p. 233- 247)

”Minnesbilder från Det kongelige Bibliotek ” /Memories from The Royal Library in Copenhagen/ (in: Sådan set – Erindringer fra og om Det kongelige Bibliotek, Indsamlet og udgivet i anledning av 200-års jubilæet for bibliotekets åbning for publikum den 15. November 1993, København: Det kgl. Bibliotek 1993, p. 17-25.)

“Fiction and Metafiction in Lars Gyllensten´s Literary Work” (in: A Century of Swedish Narrative. Essays in Honour of Karin Petherick, Norwich: Norvik Press, 1994, p. 209-221)

”Den femte evangelisten och ett par till. Något om Bibeln i tonkonsten “ /On the use of biblical texts by J. S. Bach in his passions, by Johannes Brahms in “Ein deutsches Requiem” and by Igor Stravinsky in his “Psalm Symfony”./ (in: Bibeltolkning och bibelbruk i Västerlandets kulturella historia, Föreläsningar vid ett symposium i Stockholm måndagen den 27 oktober 1997, arrangerat av Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitetsakademin, Konferenser 45, Sthlm: Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien 1999, p. 111-128.)

Personligt om Proust. /A private reading of “A la recherche du temps perdu”. Lecture at a symposium, ”A la recherche de Marcel Proust” in L´Alliance Française d´Upsal on the 12th of February 1999./ (in: Marcel Proust – hans tid, hans värld, Uppsala: Alliance française d´Upsal, 2000, p. 9-32)

Søren Kierkegaard och liljorna på marken. /Søren Kierkegaard and the lilies in the field. Lecture dealing with Kierkegaard´s different interpretations of St. Matthew 6: 24-34, on the 3rd of June 1999 at the Conferment of an Honorary Doctor-degree by the Faculty of Divinity at Uppsala University/ (in: Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift. Årg. 77, Uppsala 2001, p. 98-106)

Penelope und Melanthos Sohn. Erörterungen zu Eyvind Johnsons ´Die Heimkehr des Odysseus´und Homers Odyssée. /Remarks concerning Eyvind Johnson´s portrait of Penelope in his novel “The Swell of the Beaches”, seen against the background of Homer´s treatment of the faithful wife in the “Odyssey” / (in: Syncharmata. Studies in Honour of Jan-Fredrik Kindstrand,
Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Graeca Upsaliensis, Uppsala: Uppsala UB 2006, p. 167-187)

Ingemar Hedenius, Kierkegaard och Sofokles / Lecture at a symposium in Uppsala on the 5th of April 2008, on the centenary of the Swedish philosopher Ingemar Hedenius´ birthday, dealing with his admiration mingled with dislike of the Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and his deep love of Greek tragedy, in particular Sophocles´ Oedipus-plays “King Oedipus” and “Oedipus at Colonus”./ (in: Filosofisk tidskrift. Årg. 30, nr 2, April 2009, s. 18-34.)

En diktarjurist under strecket. Om Stig Strömholm som författare av 338 understreckare i SvD. /Portrays former Vice-President of Uppsala University, Professor Stig Strömholm as a writer of 338 lengthier essays ”under the line” in the Svenska Dagbladet./ (i: Stig Strömholms tryckta skrifter 1942–2011. Bibliografi sammanställd av Brita Alroth. Med sex inledande essäer. Red. Sven-Erik Brodd, Lennart Elmevik, Per Ström. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Skrifter rörande Uppsala universitet. C. Organisation och historia, nr 90), Uppsala 2011, p. 71–78.

Juristen i ord, ton och bild /Studies in law and jurisprudence as inspiring factors in the lives and works of famous composers (Handel, Sibelius and others),theologians (Martin Luther), painters ( Cézanne, Kandinsky, Matisse) and writers (Goethe, Kafka, Kleist and others) and legal procedures as a motif in literature (Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Holberg , Strindberg and others)./ (in: I lag med böcker. Festskrift till Ulf Göranson, Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis, Vol. XLVI), Uppsala universitet, Uppsala 2012, p. 323–332.

Dag Hammarskjöld och fransk litteratur / Whereas international criticism has focused mainly on his English and Swedish interests, this essay describes Hammarskjold as an avid reader and ardent admirer of French literature, from Blaise Pascal to Jacques Rivière and Alexis Léger./ (in: Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskaps-Samfundet i Uppsala, Årsbok 2011 (publ. Uppsala 2013), p. 67–97 and in : Le Nord à la lumière du Sud. Mélanges offerts à Jean-François Battail. Hors-série 3: Deshima. Revue d´histoire globale des pays du Nord. Département d´études néerlandaise et scandinave), Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg 2013, p. 133–199.

For further information see Thure Stenström, Bibliografi 1940-2001. Skrifter utgivna av Svenska Litteratursällskapet 44, Uppsala 2002. His recent works after 2001 are continually updated in the Uppsala University data base DIVA.

Please contact the directory administrator for the organization (department or similar) to correct possible errors in the information.

Thure Stenström