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Understanding Isak Dinesen

Susan C. Brantly

Brings to light often overlooked dimensions of Dinesen's work

Susan C. Brantly's introduction to the writings of Isak Dinesen elucidate the subtle complexities of a Scandinavian writer whose works have attracted a large, passionate following in her homeland, throughout the world, and especially in the United States. Highly regarded by a generation that followed her televised trip to America in the 1950s and by a later generation mesmerized by the Oscar-winning 1985 film Out of Africa, Dinesen gained her initial literary success in the United States. Brantly suggests that despite a wide readership, Dinesen's irony, allusiveness, obliquity, and mystery elude many readers, depriving them of a full appreciation of the writer's artistry. In this guide Brantly illumines the easily missed literary references, cultural kaleidoscope, and other complexities that enrich not only Dinesen's fictional works but also the memoir she wrote of her time in Kenya. Brantly addresses the ambiguous qualities of Dinesen's life and literature that have caused critics to disagree on fundamental points of interpretation; examines her ties to English Gothic, German Romanticism, and other nineteenth-century trends; and considers her work within the contexts of modernism and postmodernism. With close readings of Seven Gothic Tales, Out of Africa, Shadows on the Grass, Winter's Tales, Last Tales, Anecdotes of Destiny, and Ehrengard, Brantly explores the clues, details, and subplots contained in texts that critics often describe as puzzles and labyrinths. Brantly reveals the thought and care that Dinesen devoted to the construction of her stories, her expansive knowledge of world literature, and the great pleasure awaiting readers as they unravel the mysteries embedded in her texts.

Susan C. Brantly holds a Ph.D. in Germanic languages and literatures from Yale University and is a professor of Scandinavian literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The author of The Life and Writings of Laura Marholm, Brantly has published articles on Dinesen, August Strindberg, and other prominent figures in Scandinavian and Germanic literature. Brantly lives in Madison.



book jacket for Understanding Isak Dinesen


6 x 9
288 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-428-2
hardcover, $39.95s
Understanding Modern European and Latin
American Literature


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