List of abstracts for the IV International HCA conference - Hans Christian Andersen between children's literature and adult literature
Trivializing Trauma(s). Carnivalesque-grotesque Elements in Andersen's
In my paper I intend to focus on carnivalesque-grotesque elements
in Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Happy Family', 'Heartache', and 'The Goblin and the Grocer' - all of them stories where a Biedermeyer world is a submitted to a carnivalistic de-construction, i.e. where both would-be pastoral and idyllic plot-elements undergo an out-and-out 'uncrowning' (to adopt one of the Russian scholar Mikhail Bakhtin's key-terms in Rabelais and His World, 1968). In 'The Happy Family' the big white snails inhabiting the neighbourhood of 'a certain old manor house' find the highest degree of happiness in being boiled and laid on a silver dish, but such age-old, well-established (cultural, culinary) customs have gradually died out, and instead the world of the snails is miraculously r e j u v e n a t e d, when the foster-child of 'the last two incredibly old snails' marries a fine young maiden-snail. In this manner Biedermeyer happily reproduces itself. But even when the pug dog in 'Heartache' dies, there is still room for merriment and festivity (the children dancing 'around the grave') - although the heartache of the ragged little girl (excluded from the celebration) rather strengthens t h e w o rk o f m o u r n i n g (!). And in 'The Goblin and the Grocer' the 'material bodily lower stratum' (Bakhtin) - exemplified by the porridge the goblin knows it has to stick to - once more illustrates the superiority of the (grotesque) body vis-à-vis the illustrious splendour of the Enlightenment Project (represented here by the poor student's book-lore ['From the book a clear shaft of light rose, expanding into a stem and an enormous tree which spread its branching rays above the student']). The split between body and spirit (Christian-Platonic dualism) is thus overcome -at least momentarily and at least in p r a c t i c a l terms; for '[o]ff to the grocer all of us go for the porridge' (!).