“My Shadow Has Gone Mad”: Irony and Self-Consciousness in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Shadow

Author:Eli Park Sorensen Time:2020-01-13 Click:

Abstract: Hans Christian Andersen’s international breakthrough as the author of fairytales came during the 1840s. In 1846, Andersen arrived in Italy after a hugely successful but exhausting book tour through several European countries. In Italy, Anderson would write on two works: an autobiography, The True Story of My Life, and a strange—and highly atypical (at least by Andersen’s standards)—story called “The Shadow.” Literary critics have argued that while Andersen largely fabricates an idealized version of himself (and, in particular, his childhood) in the autobiography—which turns his life into a fairytale—the fictional text is altogether more biographically truthful. My argument in this essay is that The Shadow signified an ironic moment in Andersen’s trajectory as a literary writer. It is the moment during which Andersen’s private self as a writer is overshadowed by a public persona, the well-known fairytale writer “H.C. Andersen”—who became the truthful subject of The True Story of My Life. The Shadow articulates the moment when the writing becomes increasingly self-conscious, or when it takes on a life of its own—like the shadow—in Andersen’s ironic story.

Keywords: Hans Christian Andersen, The Shadow, irony, autobiography, romanticism


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