The Author Ransoming the Reader or Vice Versa? The Case of Karen Blixen

Ieva Steponavičiūtė

Abstract


The Danish classic Karen Blixen (1885–1962) wrote both in English and Danish and she is better known for the English-reading audience by her pseudonym Isak Dinesen. The article takes its departure from two extremes in her reception. The first extreme is the paramount interest in her person and life, and the other one is the new-critical and post-structural rejection of her biography. The present article pursues the middle way. First of all, this is done by tracing the presence of the fictional construct of the author and the storyteller (however, in many ways related to Karen Blixen’s person) in her texts, such as “Babette’s Feast”, “The Young Man with the Carnation” and “Deluge at Norderney”. Second, the article demonstrates how Blixen’s texts sanction the audience’s freedom and imply that reception is part of the artistic act. Finally, it suggests that Blixen’s readers can return the generosity, which Blixen’s oeuvre demonstrates in their respect. This can be done by applying biographical material intertextually, when interpreting these stories or staging them in one’s mind – without any obligation to treat the writer’s person and life as the ultimate and stable source for the meaning of these stories.

Keywords


Karen Blixen; Isak Dinesen; reception; ‘biographical irreversibility’; the narrator figure; author as a construct; the reader-author relationship; “Babette’s Feast”; “The Young Man with the Carnation”

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/IL.2016.21.1.9

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ISSN 1406-0701 (print)
ISSN 2228-4729 (online)