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Journeys from Scandinavia

Travelogues of Africa, Asia, and South America, 1840—2000

Elisabeth Oxfeldt

Publication Year: 2010

For all of the scholarship done on postcolonial literatures, little has been applied to Scandinavian writing. Yet, beginning with the onset of tourism beyond Scandinavia in the 1840s, a compelling body of prose works documents Scandinavian attitudes toward foreign countries and further shows how these Scandinavian travelers sought to portray themselves to uncharted cultures.
Focusing on Danish and Norwegian travelogues, Elisabeth Oxfeldt traces the evolution of Scandinavian travel writing over two centuries using pivotal texts from each era, including works by Hans Christian Andersen, Knut Hamsun, and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). Oxfeldt situates each one in its historical and geopolitical context, and her close readings delineate how each travelogue reflects Scandinavia’s ongoing confrontation between Self and the non-European cultural Other.
A long-overdue examination of travel literature produced by some of Denmark and Norway’s greatest writers, Journeys from Scandinavia unpacks the unstable constructions of Scandinavian cultural and national identity and, in doing so, complicates the common assumption of a homogeneous, hegemonic Scandinavia.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xviii

The Danish-German explorer Carsten Niebuhr’s Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien und andern umliegenden Ländern (Travel Depiction from Arabia and Other Surrounding Countries, 1774) includes a copper etching by Georg Wilhelm Baurenfeind of seminude Egyptian women dancing in the sand to the sound of strings and cymbals.1 ...

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Part I: Romantic Journeys to the Orient

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pp. 1-5

When it comes to the genealogy of Western travel and travelogues, literary scholars tend to regard Homer’s Odyssey and mediaeval pilgrimages as prototypical examples.1 Marco Polo’s journey to China in the 1200s marks a late-medieval budding interest in foreign ways of life, ...

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One: Discovering His Inner Turk: Hans Christian Andersen’s Commodification of the Exotic

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pp. 6-30

Andersen absorbed like a sponge. His entire oeuvre—from fairy tales to drama to travel accounts—reflects his uncanny ability to soak up the mental, material, and cultural preoccupations of his era. Even in the shortest of depictions, one has the sense that Andersen squeezes his sponge and lets out an entire epoch’s cultural and aesthetic issues— ...

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Two: The Hyphenated Woman: Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann’s Juggling Categories of Gender, Nation, and Ethnicity

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pp. 31-57

In 1869–70 and 1874–75, the painter Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann em barked on two journeys to the Orient with Cairo and Constantinople serving as exotic end points. She went to collect motifs appropriate to contemporary taste and its penchant for ethnographic, national, and exotic material. ...

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Three: The Ironic Traveler: Danger and Identity in Knut Hamsun’s Oriental Travelogues

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pp. 58-78

In terms of literary history, the travelogue has, as indicated in the introduction, been regarded as a precursor to the novel. Meanwhile in terms of the individual author’s biography, traveling is often viewed as a precondition for his writing activity. ...

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Part II: Modern Primitive Travel

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pp. 79-86

In contrast to the nondeveloping subject of the late-romanticist travelogues, the postromanticist, modern twentieth-century literary travelogues portray a subject in search of self-understanding. His journey is structured as a quest in the sense that it focuses on one particular object rather than an accumulation of impressions. ...

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Four: Savage Science: Johannes V. Jensen in the Malay Jungle

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pp. 87-105

Johannes V. Jensen is generally considered Denmark’s foremost author from the first half of the twentieth century.1 This status was confirmed in 1944 when he received the Nobel Prize in literature and once again at the end of the century, when Kongens Fald (The Fall of the King, written in 1900–1901) ...

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Five: Humor, Gender, and Nationality: Isak Dinesen’s Encounter with Africa

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pp. 106-142

Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa (1937) is exceptional. It is exceptionally popular and well known—thanks especially to Sydney Pollack’s 1985 film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford; it is exceptionally commented on and fought over within academia—by feminists and postcolonialists in particular; ...

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Six: The Traveler and the Tourist: Axel Jensen’s Desperate Frolic in the Sahara

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pp. 143-170

Axel Jensen (1932–2003) traveled extensively and spent about half his life living abroad.1 He took on jobs ranging from sausage making to coordinating poetry festivals. In his youth, he experimented with LSD cures and swapped girlfriends with Leonard Cohen (Cohen’s “Goodbye Marianne” is about the couples’ interrelationships). ...

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Part III: Late and Postmodern Travel

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pp. 171-175

In Imperial Eyes , Mary Louise Pratt analyzes travel writing from 1750 to 1980, with the early cutoff excluding the topic of this last part: travelogues written since the early 1980s. Pratt finishes her narrative trajectory with Joan Didion’s Salvador (1983), the brevity of which alone “suggests a dead end to all of this” (Pratt, 225). ...

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Seven: From the Personal to the Universal—and Back: Carsten Jensen around the World

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pp. 176-203

Carsten Jensen is a master at combining the particular with the universal. When he found himself divorced in the mid-1990s, he turned his quest for a new personal identity into a global quest. In nine months he “did” the world, returned home, and wrote Jeg har set verden begynde (I Have Seen the World Begin, 1996/2000), ...

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Eight: Futile Journeys: Parody, Postmodernism, and Postnationalism in Erlend Loe’s Traveling

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pp. 204-232

Erlend Loe, who was born in 1969, is probably Norway’s most popular contemporary author. He debuted with Tatt av kvinnen (1993), which was followed by Naiv: Super (1996). With his second novel, Loe was written into Norwegian literary history as the voice of a new generation, ...

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pp. 233-242

Travel literature is no longer just an object of popular reading but also an object of literary study. In a Scandinavian context, I have mentioned Lars Handesteen’s, Arne Melberg’s and Anka Ryall’s monographs on the more literary exemplars of the genre. ...


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pp. 243-286


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pp. 287-294


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pp. 295-302

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About the Author

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p. 332-332

Elisabeth Oxfeldt is associate professor of Scandinavian studies at Oslo University. She is the author of Nordic Orientalism: Paris and the Cosmopolitan Imagination, 1800–1900.

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673469
E-ISBN-10: 0816673462
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816656356

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010