• Signe Brink Mortensen
  • Johanne Kærgaard Kølbæk
4. term, Danish, Master (Master Programme)
H.C. Andersen is often regarded as the wanderlust poet, who wrote numerous magical fairy tales. But many also seem to forget that this perception of the author and this part of his bibliography is not representative for the life and literature of Andersen; behind the many exotic travels and “happily ever afters…” lies a darkness, which also encapsulates his art and spirit. This master’s thesis sets out to analyse a selection of Andersen’s litera-ture while using the theory of place, which is based on the scholars Tuan, Cresswell, Mønster, Augé and Foucault, to name a few. The choice of theory is due to our research question we have made concerning Andersens’ literature and life; how was he placeless, physically and existentially, and how did this come to show in his fictional and biograph-ical literary works? In order to create a representative image of his body of work, we de-cided to split the analysis into three segments: 1) “The Fantastic Placelessness”, consist-ing of four of his famous fairy tales (The Ugly Duckling (1843), The Fir Tree (1844), The Little Mermaid (1837) and The Snowman (1861)). 2) “The Fictional Placelessness”, based on his novel about a young poet, The Improvisator (1835), which is also loosely based on Andersen’s own experiences while travelling throughout Italy. And lastly, 3) “The Bio-graphical Placelessness”, which is based on his travelogue, A Poet’s Bazar (1842), where he describes his travels throughout Europe and Asia in detail. This way, we are able to analyse the writer as well as his fictional characters and derive meaning and similarities from the two.
In addition to using theoretical terms from place-theory such as space, place, non-place, heterotopia, other-directed places, multicenteredness, home and the chronotope to detect physical placelessness mostly, we also incorporated the philosophy of existential-ism with terms such as essence vs. existence, placelessness, roots and feet, and attitude-relativism by Sartre, Relph and Hylland Eriksen, amongst others, to expand on the men-tal placelessness, that seems to exist in our selected literary works. Lastly, we also incor-porate terms from a) the theory of “The Fantastic”, seeing how we are working with fairy tales, such as the contract model and the protagonist by Todorov, b) Hotel Novels by Zer-lang, which focuses on the reader experience as a temporary stay, and c) modern topos research done by Meiner & Tygstrup, to help determine the literary images and see, what historical impact these ‘places’ have.
As our final chapter in this thesis, we will do a contextual study with the selected literary works of Andersen to Baudelaire’s anthology written in the same period, Paris spleen (1869). This is due to the fact that the anthology in many ways perfectly describes the modern artist and human in a turbulent time, where freedom is only conceived through movement, travel and the rush of intoxication as an observing flaneur in the big city. In many ways, the two poets are very alike, seeing how their fleeting nature and view on life resonates very similarly in their art; although Andersen not only lived longer than Baudelaire but also came before him, their careers and literary works signify a time, where society was moving faster than ever with urbanisation, technological advances, and easier travel around the world. But with these advances also came a sense of loneliness and rootlessness, leading to existential dread and no sense of purpose.
Over-all, we find that placelessness plays a big part in all of Andersen’s works in this thesis. Whether it is the protagonists in the fairy tales, accepting a place in placeless-ness or running away from home only to disintegrate and die into the nature, from which they came, the protagonist, Antonio, also known as The Improvisator, who loves to travel and is always on the lookout for the next best place geographically and artistically, and who, in many ways, becomes a trajectory of Andersen’s own ideals as an artist. And of course, Andersen himself, who desperately flees the intellectual network of critics and literates in Copenhagen and gets lost in the world. While travelling, nothing can hurt him, and home is not always where the heart is. A philosophy of life, which left him se-cluded and his literature immaculate.
Publication date1 Jun 2023
Number of pages136
ID: 532552312