From Autonomy to Dependency: The Aesthetics of Andersen’s First Navelistic Trilogy

In the introduetion to his H.C. Andersen og Heiberg: Andsfrænder og Andsfjender (1971), Niels Birger Wamberg writes of the two titular personages, “Alligevel skiltes de i teorien, skønt mange af Andersens eventyr til punkt og prikke opfylder Heibergs æstetiske fordringer til et kunstværk. Det ville have pyntet på deres forhold, hvis Heiberg havde viet Andersen en afhandling om hans universelle kleinkunst” ‘Nevertheless, they were separated in theory, although many of Andersen’s fairy tales satisfied to the letter Heiberg’s aesthetic demands for a work of art. It would have improved their relationship if Heiberg had dedicated to Andersen a treatise on his universal small-scale art’ (8).[1] Ironically enough, these same “small-scale” fairy tales frequently served to satirize the idealist aesthetics of the Heiberg school. Since the tales often offer the most concise articulation of Andersen’s aesthetic principles and polemics, it will be instructive to examine three of them before moving on to the early novels, namely Improvisatoren (1835), O.T. (1836), and Kun en Spillemand (1837), which will be the focus of this study of Andersen as a novelist. This artide will argue that, in this loosely defined trilogy, Andersen distanced himself from Heiberg’s idealist “aesthetics of autonomy” and, passing through an “aesthetics of fragmentation,” finally arrived at what Leonardo F. Lisi terms the “aesthetics of dependency.”

J.L. Heiberg. Lithograph after David Monies’ drawing, 1842. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum

As Lisi describes the aesthetics of autonomyin his Marginal Modernity: The Aesthetics of Dependency from Kierkegaard to Joyce (2013), “[T]his organization consists in a balance between opposed formal and conceptual principles in a work of art through the revdation of their underlying compatibility or identity as parts of a self-sufficient whole” (57). Andersen offers his most damning condemnation of the aesthetics of autonomy in the seventh story of “Sneedronningen” (1845). Although art is not explicitiy invoked in the palace of the Snow Queen, it is implied insofar as the mirror is a langstanding trope for art’s mimetic function:

Midt derinde i den tomme, uendelige Sneesal var der en frossen Sø; den var revnet i tusinde Stykker, men hvert Stykke var saa akkurat ligt det andet, at det var et heelt Kunststykke; og midt paa den sad Sneedronningen, naar hun var hjemme, og saa sagde hun, at hun sad i Forstandens Speil, og at det var det eneste og bedste i denne Verden. In the middle of the empty, unending snow-hall, there was a frozen lake; it was cracked into a thousand pieces, but every piece was so precisely like the other, that it was a complete trick; and in the middle of it sat the Snow Queen, when she was home, and then she said that she sat in the mirror of reason, and that it was the only one and the hest in this world. (74)

In the original, the word Kunststykke makes it more apparent that Andersen is offering an aesthetic critique in the palace of the Snow Queen. Although the English-speaking reader might mistranslate Kunststykke to its literal meaning as an “art piece,” it in faet means “trick” (“Kunststykke,” def. 1) or “feat” (“Kunststykke,” def. 2). Nonetheless, its root, Kunst-, of course means “art” (“Kunst,” def. 1).

The Snow Queen’s insistence on the singularity and superiority of the mirror of reason reflects the rigid, overweening manner in which Heiberg propagated his Hegelian aesthetics. According to Andras Nagy, “Heiberg’s missionary vocation concluded in a ‘dogmatic absorption’ of the Hegelian philosophy, which was alien to the phenomena he analyzed, particularly art” (393). Littie Kay likewise becomes absorbed:

Han gik og slæbte paa nogle skarpe flade Iisstykker, som han lagde paa alle mulige Maader, for han vilde have noget ud deraf; det var ligesom naar vi andre har smaa Træplader og lægge disse i Figurer, der kaldes det chinesiske Spil. Kay gik ogsaa og lagde Figurer, de allerkunstigste, det var Forstands Iisspillet; for hans Øine vare Figurerne ganske udmærkede og af den allerhøieste Vigtighed; det gjorde det Glaskorn, der sad ham i Øiet!

He dragged some sharp, flat ice pieces, which he placed in all possible ways, for he wanted to get something out of this; it was just as when we have littie wooden slabs and place these in figures, which is called the Chinese game. Kay also went and placed figures, the most artificial by far, it was the ice-game of reason; in his eyes, the figures were absolutely of the highest importance; the grain of glass did it, which sat in his eye! (74)

In its geometric character, “the ice-game of reason” suggests the Hegelian triads that served as the crux of Heiberg’s aesthetics of autonomy. Andersen does not specify what shape the ice pieces are in, but it is important to note that, as with the tripartite dialeetic of Hegel’s system, the same exact form repeats itself ad nauseam. Kay believes that he can solve the puzzle, and that it is of the utmost importance that he do so. In the first passage of the fairy tale quoted above, the narrator, however, informs the reader that this game is a “trick” precisely because all of its pieces are identical. In other words, no organic unity can be achieved through this geometric homogeneity.

Moreover, Andersen implies that the aesthetics of autonomy are not only puerile, but evil, as well. On one hand, Kay is shown to be ostensibly no different fromachild playing with wooden blocks; on the other hand, his self­importance and single-minded absorption in the game are attributed to the grain of glass from the devil’s mirror. While playing, Kay “var ganske blaa af Kulde, ja næsten sort” ‘was quite blue from cold, yes, almost black’ (74), which indicates that, in Andersen’s opinion, this cold, geometric abstraction is far removed from the warm lifeblood of real art. Furthermore, as we shall see in our analysis of “Nattergalen” (1843), Andersen, in comparing “the ice­game of reason” to “the Chinese game,”[2] may be reminding his reader of the satire on Heiberg in the earlier fairy tale.

Due to their strict and subtle formal requirements, the aesthetics of autonomy require of the artist a cool head and a steady hand. For Andersen, however, heartbreak and gallaping inspiration were integral to the creative process. According to Leif Nedergaard, Andersen targets Heiberg and his Apollonian aesthetics in “Nattergalen”: “Det er kendt nok at der bag H.C. Andersen’s Nattergalen ligger modsætningen mellem natursangerindetalentet Jenny Lind og den altfor artificielle operastil, ligesom mellem natursjeniet H.C. Andersen og den ikke-umiddelbare digtertype J. L. Heiberg …” ‘It is well known that behind H. C. Andersen’s “Nattergalen” lies the contrast between the naturalsinger-talent Jenny Lind and the all-too-artificial opera style, justasthat between the natura!genius H. C. Andersen and the not-immediate poet-type J. L. Heiberg’ (194). Elisabeth Oxfeldt claims that Heiberg is also alluded to in the proxy of the mechanical nightingale, the imperial musical master (87). Heiberg’s aesthetic system is satirized as an abstruse monstrosity in “Nattergalen”: “Og Spillemesteren skrev fem og tyve Bind om Kunstfuglen, det var saa lærd og saa langt, og med de allersværeste chinesiske Ord, saa alle Folk sagde, at de havde læst og forstaaet det, for ellers havde de jo været dumme og vare da blevne dunkede paa Maven” ‘And the music master wrote twenty-five valurnes about the artificial hird; it was so learned and so long, and with the most difficult Chinese words, so that all people said that they had read and understood it, for otherwise they would have indeed been stupid and would then have been thumped on the stomach’ (23).

Like the courtiers in “Keiserens nye Klæder” (1837), the Chinese are cowed into recognizing a nonentity by their fear of appearing stupid. Likewise, the people of Denmark, excepting the Kierkegaardian pseudonym Nicolaus Notabene/ were loath to admit that they did not understand Hegel or Heiberg’s inflection of him, especially after Heiberg, in Om Philosophiens Betydning (1833), expressed the hope that he

i en Række af Forelæsninger vil kunne fremstille en for alle Dannede fattelig Indledning til Philosophien. Ja, dette Haab er endog saa levende hos ham, at han ei engang antager, at han behøver at indskrænke sig til et Foredrag for Mænd, men vover at troe, at ogsaa dannede Damer ville, idet de forskjønne Kredsen med deres Nærværelse, kunne deeltage i Foredragets alvorlige Undersøgelser[.]

in a series of leetures will be able to present for all cultured people a comprehendible introduetion to philosophy. Indeed, this hope is even so present to him that he not once assumes that he need to restriet himself to a leeture for men, but dares to believe that even cultured women will, as they beautify the circle with their presence, be able to take part in the leeture’s serious investigations. (189-90; emphasis added)

In other words, if, after Heiberg’s lectures, one still eannot understand Hegel’s philosophy, one is then uncultured, just as someone who could not see the emperor’s new clothes “ikke duede i sit Embede, eller ogsaa var utilladelig dum” ‘was no good at his office or even unforgivably stupid’ (107).

Katalin Nun rightly describes Heiberg’s decision to invite women to his private leetures as a “revolutionary step” (116). Although she admits that Heiberg’s reasons for doing so “may sound highly dubious to the modern ear” (117), Nun nonetheless overlooks how Heiberg leverages the period’s institutionalized sexism to achieve an effect analogous to that of the two swindlers in “Keiserens nye Klæder.” What studentor professor would dare to admit that he had not fathorned Hegel when Heiberg was confident that he could initiate women – who were categorically barred from a university education in Denmark (Nun 116) – into the intricacies of the Hegelian system? To do so would be to admit that one was unworthy of his academic office.

The three aforementioned fairy tales serve as a critique of Heibergian aesthetics, and yet, as Wamberg points out, in their lapidary perfection they are also a fulfilment of the very aesthetic principles which they target (8). Rather than satirizing Heiberg in his novels, Andersen actively contests him by formulating an artistic practice contrary to the critic’s prescriptions, gravitating increasingly towards an aesthetics of fragmentation, and then on to an aesthetics of dependency.

Heiberg’s vaudevilles were based on the idealist aesthetics of Hegel, which offered the playwright a means of mediating Golden Age Denmark’s challenging transformation from a feudalist kingdom into a capitalist nationstate (Lisi 57). Akin to the Hegelian system and its mediation is early German romanticism, in that both endeavor to uneover the identity between the ostensibly irresolvable poles of thought and experience (Lisi 40-41). Other than a footnote on Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship
(1795-96), which cites the novel as an example of how frank sexuality is not incompatible with idealism (275-76), Lisi does not address the principle produetion of German romanticism’s idealist aesthetics, the Bildungsroman.[4] Since Heiberg did not write novels, this omission is easily excusable. However, if we are to examine the development of Andersen as a novelist in a cultural milieu dominated by Heiberg and his circle, we must first confirm whether Heiberg espoused the same idealism in his theories of fictional prose.

Heiberg’s admiration for Goethe, author of the Ur-Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister, is a good first indicator that he might have, especially since Heiberg mentions him in the same breath as his hero Hegel in Om Philosophiens Betydning: “Gothe og Hegel ere upaatvivlelig de to største Mænd, som den nyere Tid har frembragt” ‘Goethe and Hegel are undoubtedly the two greatest men that the modern age has produced’ (169). Moreover, Goethe’s “Poesie netop fremstiller den Philosophie, som Tidsalderen søger. Ikke blot ere nogle af hans betydeligste Værker, saasom Wilhelm Meister, Tasso og især Faust, Læredigte i den forhen fastsatte Betydning af Ordet; men den speculative Idee gaaer igjennem Compositionen af næsten alle hans Værker …” ‘poetry produces exactly the philosophy that the era seeks. Not only are some of his most outstanding works, such as Wilhelm Meister, Tassa, and particularly Faust, didactic poems in the formerly determined meaning of the word; but the speculative idea runs through the composition of nearly all of his works …’ (180-81).

In his review of Andersen’s Kun en Spillemand, entitled Af en endnu Levendes Papirer (1838), the young Kierkegaard cleaves closely to the idealist paradigm of the Bildungsroman in order to ingratiate himself to Heiberg (Garff 89). One might suppose that the young Andersen would do the same for identical reasons in what could be considered his first novel, Improvisatoren, and, in faet, Joakim Garff argues that Improvisatoren leaves “no doubt that he [Andersen] was capable of fulfilling the requirements of the Bildungsroman” (90). The very tide of this novel, however, suggests that it has a much more fraught relation to the idealist genre. In a 30 November 1833 letter to Andersen, in which he also informed him of his mother’s death, Jonas Collin enclosed Heiberg’s verdict on two of the vaudevilles Andersen had sought to have staged. Of Andersen, Heiberg wrote, “Virkelig synes det også, at han – idetmindste hidtil – er en lyrisk improvisator, men som netop af denne grund mangler besindighed og koldblodighed, uundgåelige rekvisitter for den, som vil virke ved teatret” ‘Really it also seems that he – at least up to now -is a lyrical improvisator, but exactly for this reason lacks sober­mindedness and sang-froid, inevitable requisites for one who will work at the theater’ (qtd. in Wamberg 79). In Mit Livs Eventyr, Andersen writes, “Alt i Rom var skrevet de første Capitaler, og senere i Miinchen havde jeg fortsat disse, det var min Roman ‘Improvisatoren’. I et Brev jeg modtog i Rom, blev sagt mig en Yttring af J. L. Heiberg, han betragtede mig som en Slags ‘Improvisator’, de Ord var den Gnist, der gav mit nye Digt Navn og Person” ‘The first chapters were all written in Rome, and later in Munich I had continued these; it was my novel, Improvisatoren. In a letter I received in Rome, an observation by J. L. Heiberg was told tome; he looked upon me as a sort of ‘improvisator’; these words were the spark that gave my new poem a name and a character’ (1: 205).

Heiberg’s epithet was airned at Andersen the dramatist, and was intended to exelude him from writing works for the stage. lt is significant, then, that Andersen turns to the novel, and not to the play, in composing his rejoinder to Heiberg. As is evident in Hegel’s conflation of the modern novel and the Bildungsroman (Minden, n.p.), the great intellects of the period were quick to define – and therefore delimit – the protean and relatively new genre of the novel. Heiberg follows his revered Hegel and Goethe in this endeavor, and his hatchet man, Kierkegaard, in turn follows him (i.e., Heiberg) in Af en endnu Levendes Papirer, reviewing Kun en Spillemand “as if it were a Bildungsroman” (Garff 89). From a historical remove, we can now easily observe that the Bildungsroman is not the telos of the modern novel, but instead one of its many evolutionary offshoots. Whether Heiberg was correct in presupposing the necessity of a certain sober-mindedness to work in the theater is debatable, but Andersen learned that his callaborators in that particular theater, the Royal Theater, did not welcome his enthusiastic effusions. Like the “ice-game of reason” in “Sneedronningen,” art for Heiberg was a rational, abstract, and, above all, cold-blooded game.

Such a process could not be further removed from Andersen’s temperament, but rather than contesting it in dramatic form, Andersen chose to oppose it in his novel, Improvisatoren. The novel afforded him much greater artistic autonomy than stage productions; at least since the appearance of Aristode’s Poetics (350 BCE), dramatists had labored under strict formal prescriptions and proscriptions. Nineteenth-century novelists, in spite of the efforts of certain eritics to terminate the novel’s development with the Bildungsroman, found themselves in possession of a plastic and capacious medium unencumbered by a clearly defined canon or critical tradition. In his first novel, Andersen re-appropriated Heiberg’s slight of him as an “improvisator,” turning to the flexiblegenre as the appropriate medium for someone blessed with spontaneity, ingenuity, and intuition, rather than calculation, abstraction, and sobriety.

While Garff is correct in his assertion that Andersen demonstrates a certain facility with the Bildungsroman in Improvisatoren, such claims should be made only relative to Kun en Spillemand, which Garff describes as “neither a Bildungsroman nor a non-Bildungsroman” (89). Actually, to a certain extent, the same could be said of Improvisatoren; it is an amphibious novel that seems both eager to piease Heiberg with its appropriation of the Goethean Bildungsroman, and equally willing, in the spirit of improvisation, to goad him in its occasional rejection of the idealist aesthetics of autonomy. In order to appreciate this strange quality of Improvisatoren, we must now turn to Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister as the archetypal Bildungsroman, and then discern where Andersen’s first novel departs from it.

Initially, like Andersen’s Improvisatoren throughout, Wilhelm Meister first appears to be a subgenre of the Bildungsroman known as the Kunstlerroman. Kunstlerromaner or “artist novels” “recount the development of an artist” (Minden n.p.). Unlike a Bildungsroman, such as Wilhelm Meister, the protagonist of a Kunstlerroman is an exceptional individual, set apart by his or her creative talent (Minden n.p.). According to Michael Minden, “One structural advantage enjoyed by the Kunstlerroman … is that the problem of resolving the collision between the poetry of the heart and the prose of the world is solved when the telos of development becomes the vocation of the artist, and thus at once a social identity and a rejection of philistine conformity” (n.p.). Whereas in the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister the titular protagonist eventually abandons his yearning to walk the boards, Antonio, the hero of the Kunstlerroman Improvisatoren, never forsakes his vocation as a poet, evenas he submits to the bourgeois rites of marriage with Lara/Maria, his feminine ideal.[5]

Interestingly, Antonio’sfaith in divine providence at times brings Improvisatoren much eloser to the idealist mediation of Goethe than to the either/or of Kierkegaard. After he is delivered safely from the Witches’ Cave, the hero declares, “UJeg følte mig saa ganske i den usynlige Leders Haand, der kjærligt leder Alt til det Bedste, at jeg nu greb alt Tilfældigt, som en Styrrelse, var resigneret” ‘I felt myself so entirely in the invisible leader’s hand, which lovingly led everything to the hest, that I now seized on everything by chance as providence; I was resigned’ (2: 125). Like the ideal teacher deseribed by the country priest in Wilhelm Meister, the providence of Improvisatoren uses eviland error as a means of bringing about the good and the true, since Antonio’s narrative ends happily thanks to a series of misadventures.

Furthermore, one of the interpolations by Andersen’s English transiator Mary Howitt affirms such a metaphysic explicitly. Looking back on the time he decided to devote himself topleasure in decadent Venice, Howitt’s Antonio recalls, “Such was my first day in Venice – a dark and evil day – a day which left no peace behind it. But God, like a loving parent in his treatment of a wayward child, left me at times to my own course, that I might find how far I had gone from light and peace. Blessed be His great name!” (288). Howitt’s intent is no doubt to make Antonio’s demonicresolution more palatable to the Victorian reader, but the interpolation fits seamlessly into the translation because Andersen’s Antonio has already professed a belief in a divine providence that orders everything for the hest.

In the mutual coexistence of the aesthetic and ethical in Antonio’s marriage at the condusion of Improvisatoren, Andersen performs a strong misreading of Goethe. Whereas in Wilhelm’s marriage one would expect the aesthetic to be preserved and yet annulled in a Hegelian sublation (Aufhebung), in Antonio’s the aesthetic seems to retain all of its vibrancy evenunder the ethical dominion of marriage. As he tells Lara, “Hiin forunderlige straalende Verden, hvor vi mødtes, var det Uopløselige, den faste Knude mellem det Overnaturlige og Virkeligheden” ‘That wonderful, sparkling world where we met was the indissoluble, the firm knot between the supernaturaland reality’ (2: 245). While Wilhelm is no longer a player, a poet Antonio remains. These technical differences notwithstanding, Andersen is faithful to the general paradigm of the Bildungsroman in so far as he marries off his protagonist, even though this ending is glaringly illogical and forced.

In spite of his adherence to the Bildungsroman structure, Andersen nonetheless declares his independence from Goethe and the aesthetics of autonomyin the first pages of Improvisatoren. Antonio tells his reader, “Seer jeg hen til min tidlige Barndom, hvilket Virvar da af brogede Erindringer, jeg veed ikke selv, hvor jeg skal begynde; betragter jeg hele mit Livs Drama, ja saa veed jeg endnu mindre, hvorledes jeg skal fremsætte det, hvad jeg bør forbigaae, som det Uvæsentlige, og hvilke Punkter der ere nok til at gjengive det hele Billede” ‘I look back to my early childhood; what confusion of varied recollections; I do not know myself where I shall begin. I look at the whole of my life’s drama; yes, then I know even less how I shall express it, what I ought to pass over as unimportant, and which points are sufficient for representing the whole picture’ (1: 1-2). In Wilhelm Meister, on the other hand, the third-person omniscient narrator does not need to improvise or feel his way through the story. As per the aesthetics of autonomy, Goethe’s novel aspires to a coherent whole; there is, at least in theory, nothing inessential to the narrative contained therein.

It is in this sense that the players of Wilhelm’s company “agreed that in the novel Chance might well be given free play, but that it must always be guided and controlled by the sentiments of personages” (186). Thus, what to the superficial reader appears to be randomness is in faet tightly ordered by a teleological superstructure. The musings on Wilhelm Meister that the young Kierkegaard recorded in his notebook in 1836 home in on this remarkable feature of the novel:

Skulde jeg med faa Ord sige, hvad jeg egl. anseer for det mesterlige ved Goethes Wilhelm Meister, vilde jeg sige, at det er den afrundede Styrelse, der gaaer igjenem det Hele, den hele Fichtiske moralske Verdensorden, der i Romanen selv mere doctrinairt udvikles, der er immanent til Stede i det Hele, som efterhaanden leder Wil til det Punct, som i Theorien, om jeg saa maa sige, er givet, saaledes at ved Roms Slutning den Verdens Anskuelse, Digteren har gjort gjeldende, ligesom den før existerede uden for Wilhelm, nu levende er optaget i ham, og deraf det fuldendte Totalindtryk denne Roman udøver maaske fremfor nogen anden, det er virkelig den hele Verden opfattet i et Speil, en sand Mikrokosmos.

Should I with a few words say what I really consider to be masterly about Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, I would say that it is the well-balanced providence that goes through the whole, the whole Fichtean moral world-order that in the novel itself is developed in a more doctrinaire manner, which is immanently present in the whole, which gradually leads Will to the point, if I may say so, given in theory; thus, at the novel’s condusion the view of the world that the poet has maintained, just as it before existed outside of Wilhelm, now, living, is absorbed in him, and hence the consummate total impression thisnovel exerts rather than perhaps some other; it is really the whole world caught in a mirror, a true microcosm. (Skrifter 19: 102)

Like Andersen in “Sneedronningen,” Kierkegaard favors the mirror as a symbol for the aesthetics of autonomy, since the mirror, assuming that it is whole, reflects a single, unified image. While Kay is unable to assemble the mirror of reason due to the geometric regularity of its pieces, Goethe, Kierkegaard believes, has managed to cast a mirror that is faultless, and therefore captures the world as it was then imagined thought to be, i.e., as a cohesive entity. Only with a belief in this cohesion is it possible to imagine a philosophical system, such as Fichte’s, interpenetrating the diegetic universe in its entirety and serving a providential function.

Moreover, it is only in such a world that the hero can be guided from benighted error to the divine wisdom of the third-person omniscient narrator (as Kierkegaard describes). The titular apprenticeship, which Wilhelm receives in the form of a scroll, is a reification of this wisdom. Whereas, epistemologically, Wilhelm is put on par with the narrator through the possession of the text of his apprenticeship, Antonio struggles to define the principles by which he will relate his narrative. Finally, he concludes, “Hvad som er interessant for mig, bliver det maaske ikke for en Fremmed; sandt og naturligt vil jeg fortælle det store Eventyr, men Forfængeligheden kommer dog med i Spillet, den slemme Forfængelighed: Lysten til at behage!” ‘That which is interesting forme, perhapsit is not for a stranger; I want to tell the great adventure truly and naturally, but vanity, however, comes to enter into it, the nasty vanity: the desire to please!’ (1: 2). Antonio is not only uncertain as to how to effectively structure his narrative; he fears that, even if he were to know, he might be unable to do so because of his yearnings for recognition. If we compare him with Goethe’s disembodied, transcendent narrator- who, according to Kierkegaard, represents a comprebensive view of the world – Antonio strongly signals Andersen’s departure from Heiberg’s aesthetics of autonomy and its dream of the holistic work of art. Bereft of any absolute knowledge of himself and his story, Antonio is, by necessity, an improvisator, and his rambling style will inevitably lead the narrative into some blind alleys.

Although his human !imitations will at times cause him to stray and result in a fragmentary narrative, Antonio, much like Andersen himself, will never succumb to the chili of a rational, deterministic aesthetics, as he ultimately resists Habbas Dahdah, a stand-in for Heiberg, who insists that the poet “maa ikke lade sig henrive af sit Stof! kold, iiskold skal han være, sønderlemme sit Hjertes Barn og see, hvorledes det staaer til i de enkelte Dele” ‘must not let himself be carried away by his materiall Cold, ice-cold he shall be, dismembering the child of his heart and seeing how it stands in the individual parts’ (1: 95). Incongruously, in Improvisatoren, Dante is “den af Habbas Dahdah nedsatte Dante” ‘the put-down Dante of Habbas Dahdah’ (1: 83), whereas, in his Om Philosophiens Betydning, Heiberg writes of Goethe, Calder6n, and Dante, “Hine tre Digtere ere maaskee, siden Videnskabernes Gjenfødelse, … de Eneste, hvilke man medrette kan kalde speculative Poeter”

‘These three poets are possibly, since the rebirth of the sciences, … the only ones which one can rightly call speculative poets’ (171). According to Heiberg, “Dantes berømte Digt er et Læredigt i den sande, speculative Betydning af Ordet; dets Formaal er at skildre med Bevidsthed hvad ellers al Poesie ubevidst fremstiller: Ophævelsen af alt Endeligt i det Uendelige” ‘Dante’s famous poem is a didactic poem in the true, speculative meaning of the word; its purpose is to depict with consciousness what otherwise all poetry unconsciously represents: the annulment of everything finitein the infinite’ (174). That Andersen was willing to have his semi-autobiographical protagonist appreciate Dante (and unwilling to have the Heibergian Habbas Dahdah appreciate him) would suggest that Andersen, unlike Kierkegaard, [6] was capable of holding Heiberg and his theories in contempt whilst retaining reverence for some of the professor’s artistic and intellectual heroes. This ability in respect to Goethe is evident in Improvisatoren, in which Andersen borrows the providential framework of the Bildungsroman and its telos in marriage, while at the same time favoring the fragmented, improvisational style of a first-person narrator over the autonomous, holistic aesthetic of the third­person omniscient.

Garff writes that with O.T. Andersen demonstrated “to a lesser degree” than in Improvisatoren “that he was capable of fulfilling the requirements of the Bildungsroman” (90). In faet, if Improvisatoren could be said to be a hybrid between the Bildungsroman and the non-Bildungsroman, O.T. can even less be considered a Bildungsroman, in that it takes Byron – and not Goethe- for its genius. Whereas Goethe represents harmony (or the aesthetics of autonomy), Byron represents dissonance (or the aesthetics of fragmentation); this is according to Heiberg (178). Indeed, a number of Byron’s poems are Iiterally fragments, and Byron’s relation to the Bildungsroman is an ambivalent one, as will be closely analyzed further below. Sven H. Rossel writes of O.T., “In the portrayal of the main character Otto Thostrup, the period’s fascination with Byron is evident.” Otto is a typical Byronic hero, Iiterally brandedas an absolute outsider by the initials O.T., which stand for Odense Tugthus (231). The novel is peppered with allusions to Byron himself. Byron was farned for his pale complexion, and in O.T. the eponymous protagonist is repeatedly deseribed as “bleg” ‘pale’ (or one of its variants) by the narrator and the other characters throughout the text (36,37,39,74,80,84,108,201,218,219,227,229,231).

Lord Byron. From Andersen’s collage-screen 1874. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum.

Furthermore, O.T. contains a number of explicit references to Byron and his works. After hearing Otto’s romantic description of Jutland, his friend Wilhelm remarks, “Derovre maa jo ethvert poetisk Gemyt blive en Byron!” ‘Over there every poetic disposition must indeed become a Byron!’ (14). Speaking figuratively of his sister Sophie, Wilhelm tells Otto, “Byron har hun hver Nat i Sovekammeret” ‘She has Byron in the bedroom every night’ (15). Inanother scene, we find Otto brooding: “Taus, med korslagte Arme stod han foran et Kobberstykke, som forestillede Horace Vernets Fremstilling af Mazeppa, der nøgen, bundet til den vilde Hest, jager gjennem Skoven” ‘Silent, with crossed arms he stood before a copperplate which presented Horace Vernet’s representation of Mazeppa, who, naked, bound to the wild horse, drove through the forest’ (37). Vernet’s 1826 painting is basedon Byron’s Mazeppa (1819), the eponymous protagonist of which appears in an anecdote from Voltaire’s History of Charles XII (1731). Mazeppa is said to have received this cruel and unusual punishment for cuckolding an older count. Contemplating the reprodnetion of Vernet’s painting, Otto gives vent to his Byronic spleen: ‘”Mit eget Liv!’ sukkede Otto, ‘ogsaa jeg er bunden til den vilde Hest, der jager afsted. Og ikke en Ven, ikke en eneste!” ‘”My own life!” sighed Otto. “I am alsobound to the wild horse which rushes on. And not one friend, not a single one!'” (37).

Horace Vernet, Mazeppa and the Wolves, 1826. Calvet Museum.

On the last night Otto spends in his childhood home, “Det byronske Farvel klang som gamle Melodier for Øret: / O Farvel! er det for evigt! / Nu for evigt da Farvel!” ‘The Byronic farewell sounded as old tunes for his ear: / Oh, farewell! It is forever! / Now foreverthen farewell!’[7] (114). In part 2, Sophie tells Otto, “Jeg er nu en forunderlig Pige! … Hvergang jeg læser en ny Digter af eminent Talent, anseer jeg denne for den største. Saaledes gik det mig med Byron … ‘Cain’ rystede mig …” ‘I am really an odd girl! … Every time I read a newpoet of eminent talent, I consider this one to be the greatest. It went forme like this with Byron …. Cain shook me …’ (155). Sophie praises Byron’s eloset drama Cain (1821), the eponymous Byronic hero of which mirrors Otto’s status as an existential outsider. Earlier he confesses to Rosalie about receiving a tattoo from the German Heinrich with the initials of Odense Tugthus: “Bogstaverne ere borte, og dog synes jeg at see dem i det dybe Ar. Et Kainsmærke staaer der endnu” ‘The letters are gone, and yet I seem to see them in the deep scar. A mark of Cain stands there still’ (87). Lastly, after Eva disappears foliowing the debacle in the cattie enclosure, Sophie cries, “Hvor bliver min Helt: ‘I want a hero!’” ‘Where is my hero? “I want a hero!”‘ (202). Lest this allusionbelost on the reader, Andersen footnotes the passagewithareference to Byron’s Don Juan (202).[8]

Byron’s authorship is typically bifurcated between the earnestly romantic poems edebrating the Byronic hero (e.g., Childe Harolde’s Pilgramage) and his ironic magnum opus Don Juan. As we shall see, both periods would ultimately dispiease Heiberg in their aesthetic disharmony, even though the dialeetic between narrator and protagonist in Don Juan appears to build towards a Bildungsroman-like conclusion. A brief review of the Byronic hero as such will both reveal its affinities with the Otto of Andersen’s O. T. and underscore its incommensurability with Heiberg’s aesthetics of autonomy. According to Chris Baldick, the Byronic hero “is a boldly defiant but bitterly self-tormenting outcast, proudly contemptuous of social norms but suffering for some unnamed sin” (n.p.). One readily recognizes Otto in this definition, above all in his sense of guilt and alienation for having been tattooed by Heinrich as a denizen of Odense Tugthus. The Byronic hero’s inability to integrate himself within society means that he by definition can never be made the hero of a Bildungsroman. Nonetheless, Andersen attempts to do just that in O.T., as he once again borrows the Bildungsroman’s structure and its telos in marriage, while at the same time resisting the synthesis of narrator and protagonist that traditionally conducles the Goethean Bildungsroman.

While the protagonist of Don Juan is a romantic figure, like the Byronic hero, the ironical narrator, whose verse encapsulates the former, is widely regarded by Byronists to be the true hero of the poem.[9] Anne K. Mellor writes, “For as we learn in reading the poem, Don Juan’s experiences lead him ever eloser to the narrator and the heroic vision of romantic irony, while the ironic narrator becomes increasingly aware of his potential sterility and need for romantic commitment” (50). Mellor speculates that had Byron completed his epic he would have revealed that Don Juan and narrator are one in the same (55). Such a unity would match Friedrich Schlegel’s definition ofromantic irony: the “absolute synthesis of absolute antitheses, the continual self-creating interchange of two conRicting thoughts” (qtd. in Mellor 55). This synthesis between protagonist and narrator should recall Kierkegaard’s remarks, quoted above, on what makes Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister so masterly. The early German romanticism of Schlegel and Goethe resembles the mediation of the Hegelian system in that both seek to find the “underlying identity” of thought and experience (Lisi 41). Yet this synthesis requires a resolution, and, as Kierkegaard writes in a veiled reference to Byron and his Don Juan (Hong and Hong 619), “Han vorder aldrig færdig. Det Episke har den Feil, om man saa vil, at det kan blive ved saalænge som det skal være, hans Helt, Improvisatoren, Don Juan kan blive ved saalænge det skal være” ‘He will never be finished. The epic has the defect, if you will, that it can go on as long as needs be; his hero, the improvisator, DonJuan can go on as long as needs be’ (Enten-Eller 2:100).

Heiberg had already articulated the theoretical consequences of Byron’s failure to finish Don Juan in his Om Philosophiens Betydning:

Først Byron, der snart hadede, snart foragtede sine Landsmænd, ligesaa meget som han selv var Gjenstand for deres Had og Foragt, blev en idealistisk Digter, men han lod sig fanges i Garnet af sin egen Dialectik, blev staaende i Scepticismen, og kunde ikke naae Eenheden; ikke desmindre have Continentens Anglomaner foretrukket den byroniske Disanans for den gothiske Harmonie.

First Byron, who sametimes hated, sametimes disdained, his countrymen, just as much as he himself was the object of their hatred and disdain, became an idealist poet, but he let himself be caught in the net of his own dialectic, remained standing in skepticism, and could not achieve unity; nevertheless, the Continent’s anglophiles have preferred the Byronic dissonance to the Goethean harmony. (178)

It is undoubtedly Byron’s Don Juan that earns the noble lord the tide of “idealist poet,” for it is his most profoundly philosophical work; as we have already established, the poems of the Byronic hero would never win Heiberg’s praise. It is also no less assuredly Don Juan that receives Heiberg’s censure, since it fails to resolve itself in a synthesis of narrator and protagonist, as is the case in the classic Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister.

O.T. challenges Heiberg’s Bildung aesthetics not only in its adoption of the early Byron’s Byronic hero; it also does so in reenacting the later Byron’s deferral of synthesis between narrator and protagonist. At the end of O.T., German Heinrich and his daughter Sidsel perish at sea, but without anyone besides the narrator having knowledge of their demise: “[M]an saae intet Vrag, saae Ingen kjæmpe med Døden” ‘The wreck was not seen, no one saw the struggle against death’ (282). Andersen at first seems to have made a concession to Heiberg and the Bildungsroman paradigru in having Otto “not marry the girl he really feels attracted to, the erotically exciting Sophie, but her sister, the gentie Biedermeierheroine Louise” (Rossel 231). Yet Otto’s final soliloquy, which concludes the novel, indicates that, in spite of his idyllic marriage, a Byronic hero he remains at heart: “Louise elsker mig! Jeg er saa lykkelig, at jeg frygter for, at der snart maa møde mig en stor Sorg, saaledes pleier det jo altid at skee. Var dog tydske Heinrich død! Først naar han er borte, kan jeg blive fuldkommen rolig, fuldkommen lykkelig” ‘Louise loves mel I am so happythat I fear that a great sorrow must meet me soon; it indeed usually always happens like this. Were the German Heinrich really dead! Once he is gone, I can become perfectly calm, perfectly happy’ (283).

The irony is that since Heinrich disappeared at sea his death eannot be confirmed, and Otto thus will never again be at ease.[10] Despite the accoutrements of a very respectable marriage, Otto retains thealienation of a Byronic hero or existential outsider in that he is haunted by the figure of Heinrich as a reminder of his dubious past. Were he, like Wilhelm Meister, put on the same epistemological plane as his respective narrator at the end of the novel (i.e., if he knew of Heinrich’s death), then he could relax in the knowledge that he had finally achieved integration with mainstream society. But since Andersen, unlike Goethe, refuses to synthesize the respective worldviews of protagonist and narrator, O.T. ends as an anti-Bildungsroman and an affront to Heiberg’s aesthetics of autonomy.

In the progression from Improvisatoren to O.T., Andersen diverges increasingly from the structure of the Bildungsroman, abandoning the aesthetics of autonomy for an aesthetics of fragmentation. Kun en Spillemand, the third novel in this trilogy of sorts, adopts what Lisi would call an aesthetics of dependency, which “falls between both its alternatives,” i.e., between the aesthetics of autonomy and the aesthetics of fragmentation, which Lisi identifies with theavant-gardes (6). As he describes the aesthetics of dependency, “[L]ike the aesthetics of the avant-gardes, it presents the work’s constitutive parts as ultimately irreconcilable, but like the aesthetics of autonomy, it insists that these parts must nevertheless be purposefully related” (6). Lisi claims that the groundwork for these aesthetics was laid by Kierkegaard, most notably in his Sygdommen til Døden (1849). He writes,

This makes it clear that Kierkegaard is simultaneously retairung and transforming the idealist project. On the one hand, he conceives of the relation between subject and God in terms similar to those of judgment and modality discussed above, making God a version of the absolute that provides a standard of measurement for the organization of representations. On the other hand, Kierkegaard rejects the possibility of a positive relation to this standard and conceives of God as a wholly other who remains fully inaccessible to our subjectivities. (45)

In unpacking this aesthetic, it will be instructive to consider Lisi’s prime example: lbsen’s Et dukkehjem (1879). Whereas the Norwegian dramatist’s Peer Gynt (1876), much like Andersen’s O.T., represents a “rejection of the idealist paradigm,” Et dukkehjem “consists in a turn to an aesthetic structure akin tothat of Kierkegaard’s philosophical anthropology …”in Sygdommen til Døden (117). Lisi writes that “the ending of [Et dukkehjem] functions as the interruption of a new form of life transcendent of the conditions that organize the fictional world up until that point” (118). In other words, Nora’s aet of leaving her husband Torvald”provides the standard for the unification of representations that itself transcends the organizational structures of the text. On the other, it posits a condition for the relation between the opposed organizational structures, which corresponds to the dynamic synthesis of faith” (118). Unlike the aesthetics of autonomy, in which such a unity should be achieved within the text itself, Et dukkehjem, most particularly, according to Lisi (136), in Nora’s invocation of “det vidunderligste” ‘the most wonderful thing’ (341), points outside of itself to a transcendental ground where its immanent antinomies are resolved.

Søren Kierkegaard. Drawing by N.C. Kierkegaard 15 January 1838. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum.

More than a decade before Kierkegaard’s Sygdommen til Døden, Andersen adumbrates the aesthetics of dependency in the condusion to his Kun en Spillemand. Given that the two previous novels, to a certain extent, had deconstructed Heiberg’s aesthetics of autonomy, it can be surmised that Andersen, like Kierkegaard, turned to the theologically-grounded aesthetics of dependency as an alternative to the ultimately nihilistic aesthetics of fragmentation and the ultimately facile aesthetics of autonomy, although he flirts with both to varying degrees in Improvisatoren and O.T. Yet, as is the case of Et dukkehjem, with its revolutionary content within the staid “form of the French nineteenth-century well-made play” (Lisi 120), the tension between the aesthetics of fragmentation and the aesthetics of autonomy in Kun en Spillemand is not resolved into an aesthetics of dependency until the very end of the text.

Christian’s metamorphosis from the childlike faithof statist Danish Lutheranism to a mature, ecumenical Christian piety takes place over the twelve intervening years between the arrival of Christian’s sick mother at his garret and one of his last visits to Lucie’s family in the country. “Gid vi Alle vare saa gode Christne som han!” ‘Would we were all such good Christians as he!’ (3: 117), Lucie exclaims before her friend arrives. She speculates that “[d]a Verdens Haab svigtede, greb han til det himmelske” ‘when the world’s hope failed, he resorted to the heavenly’ (3: 118). In Af en endnu Levendes Papirer, Kierkegaard takes Lucie at her word, and takes issue with Andersen’s depiction of the religious: “Vi erfare, at han hører til de Hellige. At gjøre ham til Een af dem er ingen Kunst, dertil behøver Andersen blot Papir og Pen, og det er jo næsten blevet til et Sprichwort at blive »hellig,« naar man ikke kan tage sig i Verden” ‘We are informed that he belongs to the pious. To make him into one of them is easy; to do that Andersen needs only paper and pen, and it has indeed nearly turned into a Sprichwort [saying] to become “pious” when one eannot hold oneself in the world’ (55). If, however, Kierkegaard can fault Andersen for confiating himself with his characters, Andersen could well fault Kierkegaard for confiating him (i.e., Andersen) with his (i.e., Andersen’s) characters, as the would-be philosopher confuses Lucie’s voice with Andersen’s in the passage quoted above.

The faet that we learn of Christian’s conversion from Lucie and not from the omniscient narrator is highly significant. Whereas the third-person omniscient narrator’s declarations about Christian must be given a certain epistemological validity, Lucie’s remarks, in this case, are typical of the sort of worldly wisdom that is bandied about in the face of the religious – and around other things outside of its ken. In other words, Andersen, who was a Christian (albeit an unorthodox one) himself, is probably rather critical of the very attitude that Kierkegaard accuses him of maintaining. Quite unfairly, Kierkegaard describes Andersen as being “bedre skikket til at fare afsted i en Diligence og besee Europa, end til at skue ind i Hjerternes Historie”

‘better qualified to race away in a diligence and visit Europethan to look into the history of hearts’ (55).

Christian, who as a youth defiantly told Lucie, “Jeg vil være berømt, ellers bryder jeg mig ikke om at leve” ‘I want to be famous, otherwise I would rather not live’ (2:70), has come to accept her wisdom on his deathbed: “UJeg husker godt, hvad Du for mange Aar siden sagde til mig: Guds almindelige Gaver til os Mennesker ere saa store, at det er en Synd at ønske sig mere!” ‘I remember well what you many years ago said tome: God’s ordinary gifts to us human beings are so great that it is a sin to wish for more!’ (3: 132). While the fiery, ambitious young artist had the slogan Aut Caesar, aut nihil, [11] the chastened, older Christian has come to recognize his sin of pride. Lucie, who had before suggested to her husband that Christianity was Christian’s only recourse when he failed to answer his calling, is ironically also the character who first tries to instill in Christian some Christian humility. That the narrator uncritically ineludes without comment Lucie’s somewhat cynical analysis of Christian’s newly-won piety is the first sign of a disconnect between the Weltanschauungen of Christian and that of the narrator. Such a breach between the two would seem inevitable if we recall the narrator’s prophecy for Christian in his youth: “Han maa enten blive en sjelden Kunstner eller et usselt, forvirret Væsen” ‘He must either become a remarkable artist or a miserable, confused being’ (1: 60). A distinguished musician he is not; ergo Christian, in his Christianity, according to the narrator’s logic, is a wretch. Indeed, this lonely existence in which he pines away for Naomi, gladdened only by Lucie’s family and hispetstork (which he soon loses), is rather pathetic when seen from the outside. Yet one should remember that Kierkegaard, at the very beginning of his authorship proper, contested the Hegelian axiom that the outer is the inner, the inner the outer (Enten-Eller 2:11). This incommensurability is especially pronounced in the case of the religious in respect to language. As the Kierkegaardian pseudonym Johannes De Silentia writes of Abraham in Frygt og Bæven (1843), “Tale kan han ikke, han taler intet menneskeligt Sprog. Om han selv forstod alle Jordens Tungemaal, om de Elskede ogsaa forstode dem, han kan dog ikke tale – han taler i et guddommeligt Tungemaal, han taler i Tunger” ‘Speak he cannot; he speaks no human language. If he himself understood all the earth’s tongues, if the beloved also understood them, he still eannot speak- He speaks in adivine tongue; he speaks in tongues’ (202). Thus, neither Christian nor the narrator can articulate his religious experience. In faet, the narrator’s final words clearly suggest that he is judging Christian by a worldly (i.e., ethical-aesthetic) and not a religious criterion. As Christian’s coffin: passes Naomi’s four-horse carriage, the narrator laments, “Det var en fattig Mand, de begravede. Kun en Spillemand!” ‘It was a poor man they buried. Only a fiddler!’ (3: 133).

In this anti-Bildungsroman, narrator and protagonist fail to achieve a synthesis. The narrator remains within the ethical-aesthetic, whereas the protagonist has leapt to the religious. In the religious, Christian eannot attain the markers of the ethical, i.e., a marriage and a career, which typically await the hero at the end of the conventional Bildungsroman, and, in any case, his death nullifies the possibility of his ever winning them. Both in its schism between narrator and protagonist and in its pessimistic narrative of expectations awoken but unfulfilled, Kun en Spillemand first appears as a case of the aesthetics of fragmentation. Yet ane must recall that, on ane level, Lisi’s aesthetics of dependency evince this same sense of antinomy, but that here the text’s contradietions are resolved on a transcendent plane beyond the text itself. Such a plane exceeds the narratar’s supposed omniscience and is only gestured towards by Christian’s conversion.

It is vital to note that the narrator does not attempt to narrate this conversion or to make sense of it after the faet, for indeed, only God could do so. In respect to Kierkegaard’s theology, Lisi writes, “[F]or God, the identity of thought and being is assumed to be actual, even if it remains inaccessible to human cognition and experience” (45). In other words, the synthesis of narrator (thought) and protagonist (being) that the young Kierkegaard remarked upon in his notes on Wilhelm Meister is rendered impossible under the alder Kierkegaard’s philosophical anthropology in Sygdommen til Døden. Unlike the aesthetics of autonomy, there is a lack of harmony here, but rather than resting in a despairing sense of anomie, as per the aesthetics of fragmentation, the aesthetics of dependency point towards the very resolution that the text itself defers. To the worldly narrator of Kun en Spillemand, Christian is only a poor fiddler, but on a transcendent plane above the narratar’s purview, Christian is something more: a Christian who has overeorne his youthful pride and avarice to win back his soul. lt is only on this plane that his struggles and failures become part of a coherent narrative with a definite telos. Rather than an ethical-aesthetic Bildungsroman, as Kierkegaard supposed, Kun en Spillemand is – in a Kierkegaardian sense, iranically enough – a profoundly religious work, profound being used here both in the sense of “all encompassing” (“Profound,” def. 3b) and “deep-seated” (“Profound,” def. 2b). In this novel, the religious is broad enough to exceed the scope of the ostensibly omniscient narrator, while it is also so deep that it went unfathomed by a certain student of theology.


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  1. ^ All translations from the Danish are my own.
  2. ^ Figuratively, chinesisk can also mean “extremely {, unnecessarily) complicated” (“Kinesisk,” def. 2), which is yet another polemic leveled by Andersen at Heiberg’s aesthetics.
  3. ^ In Forord {1844), the pseudonym writes, “Der er een Ting, jeg veed med temmelig Bestemthed, det er, hvad jeg ikke forstaaer; der er een Ting, jeg begjærer af min Samtid, det er en Forklaring. Jeg negter altsaa ikke, at Hegel har forklaret Alt, det overlader jeg til de stærke Aander, der tillige forklare det Manglende. Jeg holder mig ved Jorden og siger: jeg har ikke forstaaet Hegels Forklaring” ‘There is one thing I know with a great deal of certainty, that is, what I do not understand; there is one thing I request of my contemporaries, that is, an explanation. I therefore do not deny that Hegel has explained everything; that I leave to the vigorous minds, who in addition explain the deficiency. I keep myself to the ground and say: I have not understood Hegel’s explanation’ {516-17).
  4. ^ As Hegel has it, the modem novel, for which the Bildungsroman is a synecdoche, narrates a conflict between “the poetry of the heart and the opposing prose of prevailing conditions and the contingencies of external circumstances” (qtd. in Minden n.p.). Yet Michael Minden describes the Bildungsroman rather as a “fusion of social realism with idealism” (Minden n.p.; emphasis added). In spite of the many obstacles, in Wilhelm Meister “the focus is upon the fictional representation of the development of personality as a complex expression of humanist and idealist optimism …” In deeiding to abandon the theater, Wilhelm demoostrates that he understands the necessity of playing himself on the stage of life, i.e., of having his inward life be equivalent to his outward, social existence (Minden, n.p.).
  5. ^ Thus, Andersen would seem to posit that, for the poetic individuality, the choice between the aesthetic and the ethical is not an eitherlor, but a both!and. Goethe, on the other hand, depicts a protagonist whose romantic dreams of a thespian calling must be jettisoned before he is able to become himself and actively engage with the real (Minden, n.p.). Although a more nuancedreading of Kierkegaard would indicate that the aesthetic is contained within the ethical for the one who develops ethically, here the aesthetic, according to the Kierkegaardian pseudonym Judge Wilhelm, “betyder noget Andet, end for den, der blot lever æsthetisk” ‘means something other than for the one who merely lives aesthetically’ (Enten- Eller 3: 216). In other words, the existential choice between the aesthetic and the ethical spheres, as the tide Enten-Eller implies, eannot be compromised. Garff writes that “[t]he harmonious judge Wilhelm … doesn’t share a first name with Wilhelm Meister for nothing …” (97); Enten- Eller is Kierkegaard’s (unsuccessful- at least according to Heiberg) attempt at a Bildungsroman (Gadf 97). Hence, Kierkegaard, in the guise of Judge Wilhelm, urges the aesthete A to forsake the aesthetic for the ethical of marriage, just as Wilhelm Meister must first set aside his theatrical ambitions to win his bride Natalie.
    Yet one must bear in mind- and this could well explain Heiberg’s distaste for Enten-Eller ­ where Kierkegaard deviates from Goethe in the definition of Bildung. For example, when Wilhelm is initiated into the Tower, the ghost of Hamlet’s father commands him, “You will not regret any of your follies, and not wish to repeat any of them” (303), and at the very end of the novel, after Wilhelm asks Friedrich not to remind him of his foodoose past, the young wag replies, “But you should no more be ashamed of those days than you should be of your parentage” (373). Clearly, in Goethe’s system, one’s sins and missteps are an integral part of Bildung, and are not to be repented. In EntenEller, on the other hand, the ethical pseudonym Judge Wilhelm urges precisely the opposite. According to him, repentance is essential to existential realization: “Af den Grund var det jeg udhævede som identisk med det, at vælge sig selv, det, at angre sig selv; thi Angeren sætter Individet i den inderligste Forbindelse og det nøieste Sammenhæng med en Omverden” ‘For this reason, I have emphasized that this one is identical with that one (to choose oneself, to repent oneself), since repentance places the individual in the deepest communication and the closest connection with a surrounding world’ (3: 230). In Kierkegaard’s Bildungsroman, there is no mediation between good and evil, and thus, unlike with Goethe, sin has no educative function and can only be repented.
    In Wilhelm Meister, the idealist aesthetics of autonomy demand that good and evil – and all other ostensibly irreconcilable opposites, for that matter – are shown to share the same underlying unity. Thus, when Wilhelm is initiated into the Tower, he is addressed as follows by the country priest, whom he met aboard a river boat long ago during his carefree life as a poor player: “The duty of a teacher is not to preserve man from error, but to guide him in error, in faet to let him drink it in, in full draughts. That is the wisdom of teachers. For the man who only sips at error, can make do with it for quite a time, delighting in it as a rare pleasure. But a man who drinks it to the dregs, must recognize the error of his ways, unless he is mad” (302). Thus, in Goethe’s novel, Wilhelm’s enlightened benefactors allow him to slip into error as a paradoxical means of discovering the truth. Rather than the either/ or of Kierkegaard, this is the mediation that the hook of that tide so strenuously rejects. Although I will not dispute Gadf’s claim that Kierkegaard, with EntenEller, was trying to curry Heiberg’s favor with a Bildungsroman of sorts, it must be acknowledged that he (i.e., Kierkegaard) does so in a very curious manner, as he spurns the mediation of Hegel and Goethe. (“Hegels System er det samme som Gethes” ‘Hegel’s system is the same as Goethe’s’ [Heiberg 184].) Not only the tide Enten- Eller but the very first sentence of the text evince Kierkegaard’s opposition to mediation. Here the editorial pseudonym Victor Eremita writes, “Det er maaske dog stundom faldet Dig ind, kjære Læser, at tvivle en Smule om Rigtigheden af den bekjendte philosophiske Sætning, at det Udvortes er det Indvortes, det Indvortes det Udvortes” ‘It has perhaps still at times occurred to you, dear reader, to doubt a littie bit about the truthof the well-known philosophical thesis, that theouteris the inner, the inner the outer’ (2: 11). In questioning the underlying identity of these – what are to him – irreconcilable poles (i.e., the inner and the outer) Kierkegaard contests the mediation so dear to Hegel, Goethe, and Heiberg.
  6. ^ According to Jon Stewart and Katalin Nun, “In Kierkegaard’s early works, when he was still sympathetic to Heiberg, he is generally positively disposed towards both Goethe and Hegel. But after Heiberg’s negative comments about Either!Or and Repetition, Kierkegaard became alienated from him and began a polemical campaign against Heiberg’s heroes, Goethe and Hegel” (58).
  7. ^ Andersen quotes in Danish the first lines of Byron’s “Fare Thee Well” (1816), which read in the original, “Fare thee well! and if for ever, / Still for ever, fare thee well” (1-2). As Kierkegaard noted of Andersen’s epigraphs, here too is “en ganske løs og udvortes Ideeassociation” ‘a quite loose and external association of ideas’ (Levendes 48); in this occasional poem, Byron was not bidding goodbye to his ancestral home at Newstead Abbey but rather aiming a passive-aggressive rhymed missive at his wife upon their formal separation, which she initiated on the grounds of his insanity (Eisler 501-02).
  8. ^ Again, Andersen quotes the first line of the Byron poem (D] 1.1.1).
  9. ^ As we saw in the first line, the narrater announces that his poem lacks a hero from the start. Moreover, his choice of DonJuan is rather desultory, as he takes him only as an alternative to some modem hero:
    I want a hero: an uneomrnon want,
    When every year and month sends forth a new one,
    Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
    The age discovers he is not the true one:
    Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
    I’ll therefore take our ancient friend DonJuan- (1.1.1-6)
  10. ^ The author thanks Professor Karin Sanders for this insight.
  11. ^ The Latin motto of Caesar Borgia (Hong and Hong, Sickness 175), translated by Kierkegaard’s Christian pseudonym Anti-Climacus in Sygdommen til Døden as “[E]nten Cæsar eller slet Intet” ‘Either Caesar or nothingat all’ (134).
- Anderseniana - H.C. Andersen


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