The Creative Dialectic in Karen Blixen's Essays

On Gender, Nazi Germany, and Colonial Desire

Marianne Stecher

Marianne Stecher

Distributed for Museum Tusculanum Press

300 pages | 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2014
Cloth $52.00 ISBN: 9788763540612 Published June 2014 NFS UK, IRELAND, AND SCANDINAVIA
Best known for Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast, Karen Blixen—often writing under the name Isak Dinesen—was an iconic figure in Scandinavia and the Anglo-American world, celebrated as a literary star and a pundit in newspapers, radio, and lecture halls. Many of her topical pieces would later be published as essays, and in this book Marianne Stecher offers the first critical examination of them, exploring Blixen’s sagacious reflections on some of the twentieth century’s greatest challenges.
            
Stecher uncovers a “creative dialectic” in Blixen’s work, an interplay of complementary opposites that Blixen saw as fundamental to human life and artistic creativity. Whether exploring questions of gender and the status of the feminist movement in the middle of the twentieth century, the reign of National Socialism in Hitler’s Germany, or colonial race relations under British rule in East Africa, Blixen drew on a dialectical method to offer insightful, witty, and surprisingly progressive observations.
Including the first English translation of Blixen’s essay “Blacks and Whites in Africa,” this book is an essential companion to the works of this original thinker and writer. 
Lasse Horne Kjældgaard, Danish Society of Language and Literature.
“A very illuminating book which traces the pattern of the ‘creative dialectic’ into Karen Blixen’s essays on three significant currents of the twentieth century:  feminism, Nazism, and colonialism. This study elucidates Blixen’s originality in dealing with these precarious issues.”
Contents
Acknowledgements
 
Introduction
 
Part One
 
On Feminism and Womanliness in “Oration at a Bonfire” and “The Blank Page”
 
     Blixen’s Feminism and Feminist Criticism
 
     Reading “Oration at a Bonfire”—Rethinking Feminism
 
     The Bonfire Oration in Dialogue with Ortega y Gasset
 
     Feminine Attire—Essence and Construction
 
     Blixen’s Entreaty to Postwar Feminists
 
     Women and History—From Gender to Existence
         
     Womanly Essence and “The Blank Page”
 
Part Two
 
On Nazism as a “One-Sexed Community” in “Letters from a Land at War”
 
     A Soldier’s Daughter and the Warrier Ethos
 
     Hitler’s Magnetism and Invitations to Germany
 
     Investigating the Original Typescripts
 
     Blixen Criticism, the Wivel Debate, and the Heretics
 
     “The Foreword”—The Narrative Strategy of Neutrality
 
     “An Old Hero in Bremen”—The Chivalrous Enemy
 
     “Great Undertakings in Berlin”—The New German Religion
 
     “Strength and Joy”—The Gospel of the Will to Power
 
     “The Stage”—Art or Propaganda
 
     Postwar Reflections—Two Kinds of Courage
 
Part Three
 
On Colonial Desire in “Blacks and Whites in Africa,” Out of Africa, and Shadows on the Grass
 
     Venerable Artifacts of the Colonial Past
 
     Ambivalence and Mimicry in Out of Africa and “Farah”
 
     Colonial Denmark, Postcolonial Criticism, and Blixen’s Legacy
 
     “Blacks and Whites in Africa”—Colonial Power as Illusion
 
      “Kitosch’s Story”—White Prestige
 
     “Farah”—Affectionate Paternalism in the Master/Slave Dialectic
 
     “Barua a Soldani”—Desire, Gift, and Sacrifice
 
Conclusion
 
Appendix: Karen Blixen, “Blacks and Whites in Africa” (1938)
 
Bibliography
 
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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