Reassessing Karen Blixen’s Gengældelsens Veje/ The Angelic Avengers: a novel challenging gender, totalitarianism and colonial practices
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date29/11/2020
The aim of this thesis is to challenge Gengældelsens Veje/The Angelic Avengers’ (GV/AA) marginalisation in Karen Blixen’s work, by offering a comprehensive and multidimensional reassessment of this text. The thesis explores the novel's conception, reception and context, analyses the novel as a Gothic text, and traces some of its intertextual connections to Blixen's other work. As opposed to the traditional critical reception of this novel as a minor text in Blixen’s production, this thesis argues that GV/AA was a text that, by allegorically problematizing the Nazi occupation of Denmark, also expressed some of Blixen’s most outspoken concerns regarding totalitarianism, colonial practices and gender. This thesis advances recent efforts made in Blixen scholarship (Stecher 2014, Kastbjerg 2013, Bunch 2017) to re-evaluate Blixen’s less canonical works – such as her essays, GV/AA and some of her posthumously published writings. By contrast to previous analysis of this novel, this thesis emphasizes the connections between GV/AA and Blixen’s other work, as well as providing an inclusive study of GV/AA which considers it as a text inextricably connected to the historical context in which it was written. Chapter 1 explores the existing scholarship on GV/AA in order to establish developments in the critical assessment of the novel. Chapter 2 examines the historical context of production of the novel, as well as its publication history in Denmark, United Kingdom and United States, drawing from largely unpublished archival materials, and questioning the assumption of it as a minor text in Blixen’s authorship. In Chapter 3 a study of GV/AA’s immediate reception aims to answer the questions of why and how this text was so specifically linked to the occupation and post-war circumstances and culture. Chapter 4 traces Blixen’s familiar storytelling techniques, examining both the similarities with and departures from Blixen’s habitual storytelling style. By contrast, in Chapter 5, by comparing GV/AA to some of Blixen’s other texts, this thesis will provide an unprecedented examination of how GV/AA reelaborates some of Blixen’s usual themes, as well as giving voice to some of her most outspoken concerns on the great themes of her century. Finally, in Chapter 6, the close reading of the novel as a gothic text will demonstrate how gothic is the genre that best translates Blixen’s conception of life as a dynamic interplay, as opposed to a social system of binary oppositions.