Photo: Lars Kruse

Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen

Aarhus University

Winner of the Nils Klim Prize

The 2023 Nils Klim Prize is awarded to Danish literary researcher Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen for her research into the history of the Danish novel, its narrative structure and its fictionality.

The Nils Klim Committee has decided to recommend that Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen be the recipient of the 2023 Nils Klim Prize.

Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen is Associate Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the Faculty of Arts, at Aarhus University, Denmark. She pursued her university education at Aarhus University, completing her PhD degree in 2017 with the dissertation ‘Fictionality and the Formation of the Novel – with a Focus on the Invention of Eighteenth-Century Danish Fiction’. While Aarhus University has been her academic base, she has been a visiting student and later visiting scholar at academic institutions in Europe, Australia, and the USA. Zetterberg-Nielsen has also been an active participant in international scholarly collaboration, especially in the areas of narratology, the history of the novel, and fictionality.

Throughout her academic career, Zetterberg-Nielsen has been prolific on several academic fronts: teaching and supervising, editing journals and books, and organizing conferences, as well as giving lectures and publishing in both English and Danish, a bilingual activity which is exemplary in itself. Zetterberg-Nielsen’s achievements have been acknowledged with Aarhus University’s award for best PhD dissertation in the Humanities,with a number of substantial postdoctoral grants, and most recently with an Inge Lehmann grant to establish a research group entitled ‘The Science of Fiction – How Fiction Shaped Science and Science Shaped Fiction’.

Much of Zetterberg-Nielsen’s scholarly work has centred around the concept of ‘fictionality’ and its various implications and manifestations. Unlike the term ‘literariness’, which has been important in demarcating the specificity of literature and its expressiveness, ‘fictionality’ has in recent scholarship come to designate the relation of literature to lived reality, the world of individual and social experiences. This entails that fictionality exists in dialectical relation to factuality.

Zetterberg-Nielsen has fruitfully explored the ways in which the concept has been applied by her predecessors and she has wielded it masterfully in her own studies of both individual texts and larger corpuses, most notably the 18th century Danish novel in its entirety. She has also approached the concept theoretically, analysing its rhetorical, communicative aspects, and its pragmatic, context-dependent relevance. ‘Fictionality’, as she points out, is not limited to literary discourse, for it plays a vital role in everyday conversation – and she is now turning her attention to the ways in which it pertains to science. The broad relevance of her impressive scholarship is highlighted by one of the key predicaments of our times: the unreliability of mankind’s ever-broadening technical modes of communication.

For all the reasons stated, Simona Zetterberg-Nilsen is a most worthy recipient of the 2023 Nils Klim Prize.

On behalf of the Nils Klim Committee,
Ástráður Eysteinsson, Chair

Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen
(b. 1988)

Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen is a researcher of Nordic language and literature at Aarhus University. She has received numerous grants and awards; among them the Elite Research travel grant, Aarhus University’s Research Fund’s PhD award for the top humanistic PhD dissertation in 2017, a grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark’s Inge Lehmann programme in 2021, and Velux’s core group grant in 2022. She leads a research group on fiction and science in the 18th century, which is based at Aarhus University. 

Zetterberg-Nielsen is an editor of the journals 1700-tal and Passage, where she has contributed to publishing a large number of issues. She has published articles about the 18th century novel and fictionality in a historical perspective in journals such as Narrative, Style, Poetics Today, The Living Handbook of Narratology, and The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory. She has also written or edited books such as Fiktion, Fiktionalitet – i sprog, litteratur og kultur, Fictionality and Literature: Core Concepts Revisited, Middelalderisme i dansk romantisk litteratur, and Litteratur og idéhistorie.



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