Framing a National Narrative: The Legend Collections of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

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Wayne State University Press, 2003 - Literary Collections - 260 pages
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The first in-depth analysis of the independent work of Norwegian folklorist Peter Christen Asbjornsen, and a unique look at Norwegian identity formation. When Peter Christen Asbjornsen (1812-1885) published his collection of folktales, which became a classic of Norway's romantic period, his accomplishment went far beyond the folklorist's goal of documenting fascinating stories from various regions of his country. His Norske Imldreeventyr og folkesagn was not only a work of literature but also a codification of certain assumptions for the readers of its time. It reflected cultural and intellectual currents in microcosm and helped to create a worldview that is still relevant in Norway today. In this long overdue analysis of Asbjornsen's collection, Marte Hvam Hult establishes him as a major force in the development of Norwegian national identity and argues that his work should assume a more prominent place in the Norwegian literary canon. Asbjornsen is best known as Jorgen Moe's collaborator on the famous collection of folktales, Norske folkeeventyr, which sparked debate about how the Norwegian language should appear in print. In Norske huldreeventyr og folkesagn, Asbjornsen blended a literary perspective with that of a folklorist to create a remarkable synthesis of the real and the imagined. Studying this collection from a literary point of view, Hult considers such themes as the appropriation of a harsh natural environment and human interaction with both the ethnic and supernatural Other. She discusses how Asbjornsen helped to establish the modern Norwegian novel and how his depiction of plurality can help Norwegians forge a more cosmopolitan national identity.

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Norwegian NationBuilding
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Hult is a lecturer in Norwegian Language and Culture at the University of Minnesota

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