Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I was thinking about the aesthetics of some of the landscape work I have done and how I hope to push it with a sense of narrative this semester, and the best way I could think of to describe it is as at the impasse between the surreal and ethereal. Thanks to a thesaurus I came to the word phantasmagoria (a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream) which seemed even more appropriate. I thought immediately of the macabre fairy tales I shared with my dad growing up and went searching for an article I thought surely must exist, something along the lines of "The Dark Undercurrents of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales." Surprisingly I didn't find a whole lot of scholarly literature focused on what I have always thought to be the most outstanding aspect of his body of work. I did come across Tess Lewis' "A Drop of Bitterness: Andersen's Fairy Tales" and a pretty appropriate quotation:

"Andersen's tales are not for the faint of heart."

I thought this one was pretty interesting too,
"Like a child, he seems to have experienced unconscious conflicts directly, with weaker defense mechanisms than the average well-socialized adult. And, like a child, he defused his inner turmoil by projecting it onto people, animals, and objects around him. He just happened to have the intellectual sophistication and literary talent to make his projections memorable."

A Drop of Bitterness: Andersen's Fairy Tales, by Tess Lewis. The Hudson Review © 2002 The Hudson Review, Inc. 

Lewis reviews Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager and discusses Andersen as the last great writer of Fairy Tales. She quotes Wullschlager as saying that Andersen "was uniquely positioned to revolutionize the fairy tale, not simply because of his vast talent, but also because of his background and the social changes of the nineteenth century." Lewis credits Andersen with adding irony and humor to the genre of fairy tales, and creating new and "original symbols that have entered our cultural consciousness as deeply as any primal myth. She cites his own psychology as a source for his works, noting that "the more directly Andersen's tales draw on his own emotional vulnerabilities or satirize his contemporaries, the more powerful they are."

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