Women and criticism. An empirical analysis of gender in contemporary Swedish literary criticism (2018–2022)

Kvinnor och kritik. En empirisk analys av genus i den samtida svenska litteraturkritiken (2018–2022)
Start - End 
2022 - 2028 (ongoing)
Department of Literary Studies
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 



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.



  • Berkers, Pauwke, Marc Verboord & Frank Weij (2016). “‘These Critics (Still) Don’t Write Enough about Women Artists’: Gender Inequality in the Newspaper Coverage of Arts and Culture in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States, 1955-2005.” Gender & Society 30 (3): 515–39.
  • Fürst, Henrik (2019). Debutant! vägar till skönlitterär debut och ett särskilt uppmärksammat mottagande. Uppsala: Avdelningen för litteratursociologi, Uppsala universitet.
  • Kim, Kwan Woo & Phillipa K. Chong (2022). “Writing by Women or for Women? Either Way, You’re Less Likely to Be Reviewed”. Poetics: 101737.
  • Kristensen, Nete Nørgaard (2019). “Cultural Journalism—Journalism about Culture.” Sociology Compass 13 (6): e12701.
  • Kulturanalys Norden (2017). Jämställd kultur: Kvinnor och män på statligt finansierade kulturinstitioner i Norden. Stockholm: Kulturanalys Norden.
  • Samuelsson, Lina (2013). Kritikens ordning: svenska bokrecensioner 1906, 1956, 2006. Karlstad: Bild, text & form.
  • Svedjedal, Johan (1994). “Kvinnorna i den svenska bokbranschen.” Författare och förläggare och andra litteratursociologiska studier. Hedemora: Gidlunds förlag. 


Phd Student(s)



Anna Williams

Department of Literature - Uppsala University

Karl Berglund

Department of Literature - Uppsala University