Empty Nurseries, Queer Occupants: Reproduction and the Future in Ibsen’s Late Plays, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Empty Nurseries, Queer Occupants

Reproduction and the Future in Ibsen’s Late Plays, 1st Edition

By Olivia Noble Gunn


180 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780367330477
pub: 2020-02-08
SAVE ~$31.00
Available for pre-order. Item will ship after 8th February 2020

FREE Standard Shipping!


Who is the proper occupant of the nursery? The obvious answer is the child, and not an archive, a seductive troll-princess, or poor fosterlings. Nevertheless, characters in Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder, and Little Eyolf intend to host these improper occupants in their children’s rooms. Dr. Gunn calls these dramas ‘the empty nursery plays’ because they all describe rooms intended for offspring, as well as characters’ plans for refilling that space. One might expect nurseries to provide an ideal setting for a realist playwright to dramatize contemporary problems. Rather than mattering to Ibsen in terms of naturalist detail or explicit social critique, however, they are reserved for the maintenance of characters’ fears and expectations concerning the future. Empty Nurseries, Queer Occupants intervenes in scholarly debates in child studies by arguing that the empty bourgeois nursery is a better symbol for innocence than the child. Here, ‘emptiness’ refers to the common construction of the child as blank and latent. In Ibsen, the child is also doomed or deceased, and thus essentially absent, but nurseries persist as spaces of memorialization and potential alike. Nurseries also gesture toward the domains of childhood and women’s labor, from birth to domestic service. ‘Bourgeois nursery’ points to the classed construction of innocence and to the more materialist aspects of this book, which inform our understanding of domesticity and family in the West and uncover a set of reproductive connotations broader than ‘the innocent child’ can convey.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Nursery at the Museum

Introduction: Ibsen’s Empty Nurseries

Chapter One: Endless Aunts, Endless Books: The Future According to Hedda Gabler

Chapter Two: Age is Just a Number: Strange Calculations in The Master Builder

Chapter Three: A Dead Child Cannot Look Back: Lost Boys in Little Eyolf

Chapter Four: Unfaithful Authenticity: Going Backstage in the Bourgeois Home

Epilogue: Survivors

About the Author

Olivia Noble Gunn is Assistant Professor and Sverre Arestad Endowed Chair of Norwegian Studies at UW, Seattle. She completed her PhD in comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine in 2012. Gunn has been a fellow of the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities and received a Royalty Research Fund grant to support archival research in Norway. She has published research on adaptations of Ibsen and on constructions of the family, class, gender, and racialization in Norwegian literature and film. Her teaching interests range from the modern novel to representations of sexuality in the Nordic countries. Gunn currently serves on the MLA Executive Committee for the Forum CLCS Nordic and as the President of the Ibsen Society of America.

About the Series

Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present

Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present

This series recognizes and supports innovative work on the child and on literature for children and adolescents that informs teaching and engages with current and emerging debates in the field. Proposals are welcome for interdisciplinary and comparative studies by humanities scholars working in a variety of fields, including literature; book history, periodicals history, and print culture and the sociology of texts; theater, film, musicology, and performance studies; history, including the history of education; gender studies; art history and visual culture; cultural studies; and religion.

Topics might include, among other possibilities, how concepts and representations of the child have changed in response to adult concerns; postcolonial and transnational perspectives; "domestic imperialism" and the acculturation of the young within and across class and ethnic lines; the commercialization of childhood and children's bodies; views of young people as consumers and/or originators of culture; the child and religious discourse; children's and adolescents' self-representations; and adults' recollections of childhood.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: