Selma Lagerlöf’s novel En herrgårdssägen (1899) appears at the end of a century of mapping. Hegel had pulled transcendental philosophy firmly into history, Darwin had brought myths of origin firmly into an evolutionary schema, and even the navigational sport ‘orienteering’ had developed out of military mapping exercises to hold its first competition in Norway just two years before Lagerlöf’s book appears. Even the definitively un-mappable was becoming susceptible to empirical description, as with the ancient ideas of the unseen which had congealed through the writings of Schelling and von Hartmann into the popular term ‘unconscious.’ Lagerlöf’s novel appears at the cusp of ‘‘ a time when every cultured European was familiar with the word and, to a large degree, accepted its validity as a concept’ (Meltzer, 1995). Sigmund Freud’s great contribution was not the discovery of the ‘unconscious,’ but rather his linking of the concept to the inherently sexual. This in turn provided a stable framework for his topographical description of the human mind. Lagerlöf’no less that Freud’seems to map the unconscious, yet in a way that resists Freud’s positivistic reduction by retaining the mythic qualities of the folkloric elements she spins into her story. My paper explores how the unconscious is mapped in En herrgårdssägen and measures the results in terms of generic difference. Lagerlöf’s background in myth and folklore may finally lead to a descriptive mode that is no less adequate than Freud’s scientific approach in describing the unconscious.
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