Literary criticism plays an important role in the way literary works are perceived and what value is ascribed to them: it has a gatekeeping function, attributing cultural legitimacy through its attention and its discourses (Kristensen 2019; Samuelsson 2013). Women have traditionally held a marginal position in the literary field: not only were there fewer women authors; the number of women critics was even lower (Svedjedal 1994). Accordingly, the representation of women’s works in discourse about literature was marked by a gender bias, regarded as a distinct and inferior type of literature. However, there has been a significant shift in recent decades: an increasing number of women are participating in various positions within the literary field (Fürst 2019; Samuelsson 2013; Kulturanalys Norden 2017). Nonetheless, existing research shows that the amount of attention paid to women in international cultural journalism has not increased proportionally (Berkers et al. 2016; Kim & Chong 2022).
The aim of the project is to analyze the field of literary criticism in Sweden today from a gender perspective. The project will draw upon a corpus of contemporary book reviews from Swedish newspapers and literary magazines, analyzed by a combination of distant reading techniques and qualitative analysis. By mapping out the external factors of the field, as well as a systematic study of literary criticism as a practice, the project attempts to examine the functioning of the field of literary criticism, and to shed a light on potential gender differences.