Maria Karlsson

Maria Karlsson

I am a Ph.D. in Literary Studies and a senior lecturer in Rhetoric at the Department of Literature, Uppsala University. Since my dissertation in 2002, which was a study on melodrama in novels by the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf (1858–1940), I have partly continued to work on bodies of material connected to Lagerlöf’s authorship. This has included text interpretation, editorial and text critical work (see www., and an extensive study of the unique letter collection of over 40 000 letters sent to Lagerlöf during 1891–1940. Most of these letters are from the public, many from the working classes and the poor, and they provide rare possibilities to investigate how “ordinary” people read and what impact a celebrity like Lagerlöf could have at the time. A substantial amount of the letters are charity letters where people beg Lagerlöf for money and other favors, and the book discusses how these people uses their vulnerability to persuade her. (See Lagerlöf’s Readers (2022),

Apart from last turn of the century writers, my main research areas are narration, audiences, popular culture, art in politics and media. For a number of years I worked as a researcher at The Centre for Gender Studies, Uppsala University. At the current I am head of the project “True crime on the air. The representation of crime, the law and the justice system in Swedish Public Service Radio’s P3 Documentary 2005–2020″ (funded by The Swedish Research Council 2021–2023). In true crime vulnerability is generative in a number of ways, not least in relation to how affects such as anxiety, fear, love and hate move the listener. A recently funded project, “The scandal syndrome – the aesthetics and politics of art scandals” (The Swedish Research Council 2023–2025), also centers around affects of different audiences, but also on the risk taking that is involved in creating and exhibiting provocative art.

My interest in vulnerability has so far been focused on recognition, asymmetries, affect and intimacy, as well as on how people make creative use of their vulnerability to gain benefits in specific rhetorical situations; e.g. begging from a famous writer in the beginning of the 20th ct. I mainly focus literature, art and media, and was coeditor of the book Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Media (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), that gathered 19 scholars from Norway, Denmark and Sweden. During the last years I have mostly taught courses on master/post graduate level. They have been on topics where theories of vulnerability play an important part – e.g. ecocriticism, narratives from precarious suburbs, gender/queer theory and interpretation, autofiction.

Contact information:

Selected publications
2022monographJenny Bergenmar & Maria Karlsson. Lagerlöfs läsare. Allmänhetens brev till Selma Lagerlöf 1891–1940. Stockholm: Makadam. ISBN 978-91-7061-396-8, Kriterium vol. 39.
2002Känslans röst. Det melodramatiska i Selma Lagerlöfs romankonst [Voice of Emotion. The Melodramtic in Selma Lagerlöf’s Novels]. Stockholm: Symposion.
Textcritical edition of Novel
2021Introduction (50 pp.) to Selma Lagerlöf, Körkarlen [Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness] [1912], eds. Jenny Bergenmar, Maria Karlsson and Petra Söderlund. Stockholm: Svenska Vitterhetssamfundet.
2020Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Culture, eds. Adriana Margareta Dancus, M. Hyvönen & Maria Karlsson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
2017Konstellationer. Festskrift till Anna Williams, eds. Alexandra Borg, Andreas Hedberg, Maria Karlsson, Jerry Määttä & Åsa Warnqvist. Möklinta: Gidlunds.
2017Unga läser. Läsning, normer och demokrati [Young People Read. Reading, Norms and Democracy], eds. Maria Karlsson & Åse Hedemark. Möklinta: Gidlunds.
2011Spår och Speglingar [Traces and Reflections (of Selma Lagerlöf)], eds. Maria Karlsson and Louise Vinge. Hedemora: Gidlunds.
2006Den moderna ensamheten [The Modern Loneliness], eds. Maria Karlsson and Sharon Rider. Stockholm/Stehag: Symposion.
2005I Selma Lagerlöfs värld. Fjorton uppsatser redigerade av Maria Karlsson och Louise Vinge [In the World of Selma Lagerlöf. Fourteen articles edited by Maria Karlsson and Louise Vinge]. Stockholm/Stehag: Symposion.
2020Mobilizing Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Culture (with Adriana Margareta Dancus and Mats Hyvönen). In Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Culture, eds. Adriana Margareta Dancus, M. Hyvönen & Maria Karlsson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
2020The Politics of True Crime: Vulnerability and Documentaries on Murder in Swedish Public Service Radio’s P3 Documentary (with Mats Hyvönen and Madeleine Eriksson). In In Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Culture, eds. Adriana Margareta Dancus, M. Hyvönen & Maria Karlsson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
2017Den sårbara brevskrivaren och det förlorade och återvunna Mårbacka [The Vulnerable Letter Writer, and Mårbacka Lost and Regained], forthcoming, november 2017.
2017The Sacrosanct Art: On Art and Religion, the Rise of Populism and the Changing Media Landscape (with Måns Wrange). PARSE Journal, On Secularity, 2017:6.
2016Biografiska legender från Bowie till Lagerlöf. Fans, läsare och författare i Fiktion och verklighet [Biographical Legends from Bowie to Lagerlöf. Fans, Readers and Authors in Fiction and Reality], in Fiktion och verklighet, eds. Anna Bohlin och Lena Goemzöe. Stockholm: Makadam, s. 45–71.
2016Evidence of Reading? The Swedish Public’s Letters to Selma Lagerlöf and Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to the History of Reading (with Jenny Bergenmar). In Plotting the Reading Experience. Theory, Practise, Politics, eds. Lynne McKechnie, Paulette Rothbauer, Knut Oterholm and Kjell Ivar Skjerdingstad, s. 73–85.
2015Introduktion till Gösta Berlings saga [Introduction to Gösta Berling’s Saga] and Gösta Berlings saga i andra medier [Gösta Berling’s Saga in Other Media]. Selma Lagerlöf -arkivet, Litterturbanken 2015.
Read article (in Swedish)
2014The Reader in History and Letters to the Author. The Case of Selma Lagerlöf and Her Audience (with Jenny Bergenmar). In Re-Mapping Lagerlöf: Performance, Intermediality and European Transmissions, eds. Bjarne Thorup Thomsen, Helena Forsås Scott and Lisbeth Stenberg. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 44–59.
2013Scandal Success. The Political Economy of the Art Scandal (with Måns Wrange). In Scandalous. A Reader on Art and Ethics, ed. Nina Möntmann. Sternberg Press: Berlin and New York, 88–106.
2013Kanonforskning, konvergens och kärringromaner [Canon Research, Convergence and ’Bitch Novels’ ”]. In Fält i förvandling. Genusvetenskaplig litteraturforskning, eds. Eva Heggestad, Anna Williams and Ann Öhrberg. Möklinta: Gidlunds, 248–263.
2013Bästa författarinna, Högtärade Dr. Lagerlöf, Kära sagotant! Om allmänhetens läsning av Selma Lagerlöf [Dear Dr Lagerlöf, Honoured Author, Dear Saga Lady. On the Public’s Reading of Selma Lagerlöf] (with Jenny Bergenmar), Riksbankens jubileumsfonds årsskrift 2013, ed. Björn Fjæstad. Stockholm: Makadam, 50–59.
2012Extensive introduction (50 pp.) to Selma Lagerlöf, Körkarlen [Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness] [1912], eds. Jenny Bergenmar, Maria Karlsson and Petra Söderlund. Stockholm: Svenska Vitterhetssamfundet.
2011Den verkliga publikens Selma Lagerlöf [The Selma Lagerlöf of the Real Audience]. In Spår och Speglingar, eds. Maria Karlsson and Louise Vinge. Hedemora: Gidlunds, 185–215.
2008Läsarnas Lagerlöf: kroppen och känslorna [Lagerlöf of the Readers: the body and the emotions]. In En ny sits. Humaniora i förvandling. Vänbok till Margaretha Fahlgren, eds. Eva Heggestad et al. Uppsala: Acta universitatis Upsaliensis, 233–240.
2008Allmänheten skriver till Selma Lagerlöf [The public writes to Selma Lagerlöf]. In Selma Lagerlöf 1858–2008…, eds. Anna Nordlund and Ann-Charlotte Knochenhauer. Stockholm: Kungliga biblioteket, 105–117.
Read article (in Swedish)
2008Inledning till textkritisk utgåva av Selma Lagerlöfs Körkarlen [Introduction to the textcritical edition of Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness by Selma Lagerlöf], eds. Jenny Bergenmar, Maria Karlsson and Petra Söderlund. Stockholm: Sv. Vitterhetssamfundet, IX–LVI.
2007Läsarnas Lagerlöf. 1915 års män läser Kejsarn av Portugallien [Men of 1915 read The Emperor of Portugallia]. In De Nio. Litterär kalender 2007, ed. Gunnar Harding, 74–93.
2006Krama frihetens kalla sten. Kvinnors ensamhet i Nesser-land [The Loneliness of Women in Nesser-country]. In Den moderna ensamheten, eds. Maria Karlsson and Sharon Rider. Stockholm/Stehag: Symposion, 93–119.
2004Tablå och travesti. Ett omklädningsrum hos Selma Lagerlöf [Tableau and Travesty. A Dressingroom in Selma Lagerlöf’s works]. In Omklädningsrum. Könsöverskridanden och rollbyten från Tintomara till Tant Blomma, eds. Eva Heggestad and Anna Williams. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 51–74.