Icons of Danish Modernity
280 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Dec 2012

Icons of Danish Modernity

Georg Brandes and Asta Nielsen

University of Washington Press

Julie Allen utilizes the lives and friendship of the Danish literarycritic George Brandes (1842-1927) and the silent film star Asta Nielsen(1881-1972) to explore questions of culture and national identity inearly twentieth-century Denmark. Danish culture and politics wereinfluenced in this period by the country's deeply ambivalentrelationship with Germany. Brandes and Nielsen, both of whom lived andworked in Germany for significant periods of time, were seen asdangerously cosmopolitan by the Danish public, even while they servedas international cultural ambassadors for the very society thatrejected them during their lifetimes. Allen argues that they were theprototypical representatives of a socially liberal and culturallymodern "Danishness" (Danskhed) that Denmark itself onlygradually (and later) grew into.

This lively study brings its central characters to life whileoffering an original, thought provoking analysis of the origins andpermutations of Danish modernism and Danish national identity –issues that continue to be significant in today's multi-ethnicDenmark. Icons of Danish Modernity is a book about the uneasywaves that arise when celebrities take on national symbolism, and thebeginnings of this formula in the early twentieth century.

Allen weaves a compelling cultural analysis about national identity and its mores. The juxtaposition of the works of Georg Brandes and Asta Nielsen is highly original and Allen's contribution offers a much-needed introduction to an English reading audience of these important cultural figures. Karin Sanders, University of California, Berkeley
Julie K. Allen is associate professor of Scandinavianstudies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
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