Chair no. 11 - Mats Malm

Literary historian.
Elected: 2018.

Mats Malm was born in 1964. In 1996 he defended his PhD thesis Minervas äpple: Om diktsyn, tolkning och bildspråk inom nordisk göticism (”Apples of Minerva : On poetical views, interpretation and imagery”) at the University of Gothenburg. In this thesis he investigates a number of theoretical aspects of the reception of Old Norse poetry in Scandinavian Gothicism.

What happens to a text when the context it was written in disappeares? How can a modern reader return to how it was meant and experienced at the time it was written? This is a recurrent theme in the research of Mats Malm. In his book Textens auktoritet : de första svenska romanernas villkor (2001; ”The Authority of the text : the conditions for the first Swedish novels”) Malm describes the rather harsh literary climate in Sweden during the mid 18th century, which at the same time saw the birth of the modern novel in Europe. He also brings up questions on how subjects such as morals, literary presentation and nationality were linked to one another at the time. Of particular interest for Malm is to what extent these Swedish novels challenged the then predominant norm system, for instance the norm that found suggestive and reality-bound narrations to be regarded as treacherous and pernicious. In his later book Det liderliga språket : poetisk ambivalens i svensk ”barock” (2004; Voluptuous language and poetic ambivalence : the example of Swedish baroque, 2011) Malm performs a conceptually related study of Swedish Baroque poetry in which he, among other things, investigates the view on aesthetic pleasure as a potential social threat and the conception of the sensous language as unmanly, lecherous and contagious.

In Poesins röster : avlyssningar av äldre litteratur (2011; "The voices of poetry : listenings to older literature") Malm pursues the question on how the voices coming from poems written in a more orally based context can later be experienced differently and thus how literature changes its meaning through medial transmission. Lines that today seem harmless and beautiful may once have had an ironic, or even controversial, ring to them. Staying at the poetry shelf, the next book he published was The soul of poetry redefined: vacillations of mimesis from Aristotle to romanticism (2012) in which he sheds new light on the notion of mimesis in the Aristotelian tradition. He does this by demonstrating how interpretations of Aristotle’s Poetics have vacillated between two dominating instances of mimesis: composition and representation.

Mats Malm is also a translator and has for instance translated Snorre’s Edda from Islandic to Swedish. During the years 1998-99 he was a guest Professor at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main. Since the year 2004 he is a Professor in Literary science at Gothenburg university. He is also head for a digital project called Litteraturbanken ( that makes available great portions of Swedish literary classics. On top of all this Malm has edited a large number of anthologies.
In the year 2018 he succeeded the author Klas Östergren on chair no. 11 in the Swedish Academy. He functions as Permanent Secretary since the first of June 2019.