Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes: The Body Switch in the Engelsfors Trilogy
In the second book in the Swedish fantasy series about the town Engelsfors, Fire (2013), a dysfunctional group of witches is forced to unite and work together in order to hide that they have switched bodies with each other. This version of the body-switching motif is different from the more common body switch between two characters in that five people who are all focalised throughout the experience take part in it. The body switch is closely tied to a learning process about the need for cooperation and understanding for other people’s life situations, which in turn emphasises the different girls’ intersectional power positions (cf. Crenshaw "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex"). Through the process of walking in someone else’s shoes, the girls get to experience how it feels to watch their own body and life from a distance. Simultaneously, they get to play the part of someone else. As a consequence, they learn about both their own life situation and intersectional power position, and about the girl whose body they temporarily reside in. Thus, the literalisation of the figure of speech “to walk in someone else’s shoes” becomes a learning process. By positioning each individual young woman as the active subject in another girl’s life and the passive object in their own life, the body switch functions as a fantasy literary equivalent to the photograph motif, which according to Roberta Seelinger Trites often is deployed as a vehicle for illuminating how people are simultaneously the subject and the object in their own lives in realistic adolescent literature (123). The article is based on the concept of intersectionality, photograph theory, Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnival theory, and Tzvetan Todorov’s theory on how fantastic literature can turn figures of speech into literalised facts. These theories are all used to investigate how the body switch problematises and changes the witches’ ability to influence their respective life situation.
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