H.C. Andersen and Community: Keynote speakers

Elisabeth Oxfeldt

Abstract: Imagining War and Soldiers: Contemporary Danish Cinema Through the Lens of H.C. Andersen

“A SOLDIER came marching along the high road: ‘Left, right—left, right.’”

Hans Christian Andersen’s art-tale oeuvre opens up with the image of a soldier returning home from war in “Fyrtøjet” (1835; The Tinder-Box). Today, in the aftermath of the ongoing military interventions in Afghanistan, the figure of the soldier has once more become important to the Danish national self-image. Several films have been made about the returned soldier – a heroic figure, but one who also often ends up a social outsider.

In this presentation I discuss Andersen’s literary soldier figures in relation to contemporary representations of soldiers. My main source of comparison is Lisa Ohlin’s film De standhaftige (2016; Walk with Me) and Andersen’s “Den standhaftige Tinsoldat” (1838; The Steadfast Tin Soldier).


Elisabeth Oxfeldt, professor of Scandinavian Literature, University of Oslo. Has written about Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, dramas, and travelogues, often from a postcolonial perspective. She has also written extensively on contemporary Andersen film adaptations, including the book H.C. Andersens eventyr på film (2009). Currently she is heading a project on “Scandinavian Narratives of Guilt and Privilege in an Age of Globalization”.

Julie K. Allen

Abstract: How H.C. Andersen Conquered the World: The Global Circulation and Adaptation of Fairy Tales

Given his humble social beginnings, Hans Christian Andersen’s rise to international prominence during his own lifetime was an astonishing accomplishment, facilitated primarily by the phenomenal success of his fairy tales in countries around the globe. The continued circulation of his tales for nearly a century and a half since his death has become a phenomenon in its own right, particularly as those tales have been adapted to new cultural contexts and become new creative works, in explicit or implicit dialogue with the works from which they derive. Although adaptations have long been dismissed as “secondary, derivative, … and culturally inferior,” it is both the familiar elements of the originals that recur in adaptations and the unfamiliar, unexpected elements with which they are combined that give adaptations their unique flavor, or, to as Hutcheon puts it, “the comfort of ritual combined with the piquancy of surprise.”

This talk explores how successful adaptations of Andersen’s stories within a variety of different cultural traditions create new, artistically autonomous but inherently palimpsestuous works that are always already informed by their relationship to the works from which they are adapted.


Julie K. Allen is Professor of Comparative Arts and Letters at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She earned her Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University in 2005. Her primary research interests deal with national and cultural identity, primarily in Germany and Denmark, as conveyed through film, literature, and popular culture. She is the author of Icons of Danish Modernity: Georg Brandes and Asta Nielsen (2010) and Danish but not Lutheran: The Impact of Mormonism on Danish Cultural Identity, 1850-1915 (2017), the editor of More than Just Fairy Tales: New Approaches to the Stories of Hans Christian Andersen (2014), and the co-translator of The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (Norton, 2007).

Klaus Müller-Wille

Abstract: Runious communities. H.C. Andersen and the political imaginary of the 19th century

The famous study L'Institution imaginaire de la société (1975) in which the Greek French philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis tried to outline a totally different form of political science is of an astonishing actuality today. Castoriadis is interested in the imaginary institutions that regulate the self-perception of societies. Not only images but also political rituals, folk fairs and costumes of monarchs or other political leaders contribute to the political imaginary that stages and frames fundamental power relations. One just have to think of the fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes in order to realize that Hans Christian Andersen can be described as a predecessor of Castoriadis’ political theories. Andersen was very well aware that political powers build on the imaginations and phantasies of the people that are ruled by these powers.

In my paper I want to show that Andersen was not only interested in the body of the king and the corresponding political imaginary of the monarchy. Modern societies are ruled by more complex forms of a political imaginary that is connected to the phantasy of a homogenous community and the body of the nation. Andersen was very well aware of the possibilities and the risks of this specific form of the political imaginary.

I will use the fairy tale The Neighbouring Families (1847) in order to illustrate Andersens corresponding reflections in which he of course also deals with the political implications – and thereby also with the possibilities and risks – of art in the modern societies.


Klaus Müller-Wille, born 1966 in Kiel (Germany), works as a professor of Northern philology at the German department of the university of Zurich (Switzerland). From 2012 to 2015 he was working as a visiting professorial fellow at the Hans-Christian-Andersen-Centre in Odense (SDU). His main research interests reach from the Scandinavian literature of Romanticism (Almqvist, Andersen, Heiberg, Gyllembourg, Kierkegaard) over the Modern Breakthrough (Ibsen, Strindberg, Ola Hansson) to the Nordic Avant-garde (Christensen, Fahlström, Jorn). He has published books on Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (Schrift, Schreiben und Wissen. Zu einer Theorie des Archivs in Texten von C.J.L. Almqvist) and Hans Christian Andersen (Sezierte Bücher. Hans Christian Andersens Materialästhetik). His theoretical interest reange from theories of writing, reading, materiality, theatricality to cultural history (literature and economy, literature and imagined communities).

Luo Xuanmin

Abstract: Translations of H.C. Andersen and his Intertextual World in China

Andersen’s fairy tales have been influential in the history of modern Chinese literature and culture ever since they were introduced to China in the early 20th century. As one of the major sources for Chinese children’s literature, Andersen’s works have undoubtedly enriched Chinese literature. Even today Chinese readers in different ages are fascinated with Andersen’s works and the images created in his works through translations and re-translations.

In this article, the author will discuss first the historical background of the translation of Andersen’s works in China, and then analyze the translation of his works in different approaches and methods, and finally investigate Andersen’s intertextual world in China, to see how thematic, generic and typological features of Andersen works are cross-culturally represented in Chinese literature and to illustrate how the images in Andersen works have been intertextually participated as cultural signs which were, after canonization, melted into the construction of modern Chinese culture.


Luo Xuanmin, PhD, Leading Professor of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Asia Scholar Professor at University of Melbourne, and Director of the Center for Translation and Interdisciplinary Studies of Tsinghua Universality. He is President of China Association of Comparative Studies of English and Chinese (CACSEC), and Editor-in-Chief of Routledge’s journal Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies. He is the Council Member of both Australia Research Council and (Hong Kong’s) University Grant Committee. He received fellowships from American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Salzburg Global Seminar, Summer Research Fellowship from Cambridge University, and Fulbright Research Fellowship from US State Council. His publications include books and translations in various presses and articles in various journals at home and abroad. His publications in recent ten years are the translation of Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming American Dream (2008), Walter Kasper’s God of Jesus Christ (2008), William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Antonio and Cleopatra (2015); the English collection of Translating China by Multilingual Matters Ltd in UK (2009), his new monograph Translation and Chinese Modernity was published by Tsinghua University Press in April 2017.

Marianne Tranberg Stecher

Abstract: Underground Andersen – Political Allegory and the Fairy Tale

How do Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales function “underground”? The new museum design by Kengo Kuma creates underground spaces that simulate the imaginative universe of Andersen’s fairy tales and remind us that “det underjordiske” (the subterranean) holds great significance for the folk fairy tale genre. However, the idea of an “Underground” may also suggest clandestine or subversive activities in modern, urban environments. This paper explores the potential of fairy tales for political allegory, including “Den onde Fyrste” (1840; “The Wicked Prince”) and “De smaa Grønne (1867; “The Little Green Ones”).

The presentation will consider how the historical or modern contexts in which such texts are circulated and read (rather than the context of their original production) create meanings and readings. In other words, we may observe a fairy tale move from the passive literary “archive” to an active cultural memory when it is imbued with a collective or political sentiment. Thus, Andersen’s tales continue to resonate with a global community still today.


Marianne Tranberg Stecher (PhD, UC Berkeley, 1990) is professor of Danish and Scandinavian literature at University of Washington-Seattle, Department of Scandinavian Studies, where she has taught large-lecture courses and published articles on Hans Christian Andersen’s tales since 1991. Her book publications include The Creative Dialectic in Karen Blixen’s Essays – On Gender, Nazi Germany, and Colonial Desire (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2014) and History Revisited: Fact and Fiction in Thorkild Hansen’s Documentary Works (1997), and the edited volumes: Danish Writers from the Reformation to Decadence 1550-1990 (Gale Group, 2004) and Twentieth-Century Danish Writers (Gale Group, 1999). Her current book project is a collection of essays on Nordic War Stories – The Second World War as History, Fiction and Film. Professor Stecher is currently serving on the HCA center’s editorial advisory committee for the new English translation of H.C. Andersen’s tales and stories. Marianne’s father was born and raised in Odense.

Suan Jian

Abstract: From Langelinie to the Bund: H.C. Andersen and the City of Shanghai

Langelinie, the famous pier and promenade in the Harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark, is the home of the legendary statue of The Little Mermaid. The Bund, the waterfront in the harbor of Shanghai, China, is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world. The two harbor cities have been brought together ever closer since the visit of the statue of The Little Mermaid to Shanghai during the Expo 2010. Perched on a rock situated in the Pool with water from the Copenhagen harbor in the center of the Danish Pavilion, the statue became the most popular spot in the Expo visited by millions of tourists.

As is known to all, the statue of The Little Mermaid is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale “The Little Mermaid”. For citizens of Shanghai, H.C. Andersen is one of their favorite authors from Europe. The influence of this Danish writer on the city is enormous and the presence of Andersen can be felt everywhere. The books of his fairy tales can be found in the bookstores, his fairy tales are taught not only in primary and high schools but in colleges and universities, the plays and shows adapted from his fairy tales are performed often in the Children’s Theatre, the Hans Christian Hotel stands by one of the busiest streets in Shanghai and the huge Hans Christian Theme Park will be officially opened on Children’s Day, June 1st, 2017, in Shanghai.

My presentation will focus on the reception of Hans Christian Andersen in the city and his influence on the community in Shanghai from a historical and cultural perspective.


Sun Jian, Professor of English, Director of the Nordic Literature Research Institute and the Multi-language Centre at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. He has edited and co-edited in recent years books on Nordic Literature which include Nordic Literature Studies Across Cultures (Fudan University Press 2017), Hans Christian Andersen in China (Southern Denmark University Press 2014), Folk Tradition in Modern Society (Turku University and Fudan University Press 2013), and Ibsen Across Cultures (Oslo University and Fudan University Press 2012). He is currently a member of the International Ibsen Committee, University of Oslo.