"Den farlige kløft mellem kønnene".
This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.
The Dangerous Cleavage between the SexesMartin Lotz
(summary for pages 385-93)
In a psychoanalytic investigation into why it was so difficult for Andersen to create literary works for adults alone we can search for the elements which were hidden from the author and may still be hidden from us by means of psychic defence. A seemingly unimportant detail from Andersens autobiography may be focused upon. He tells the reader that his father read aloud from a novel The Faddist by the German novelist, August Lafontaine. Andersen had difficulties in remembering this book, and it seems that it has not since attracted the attention of researchers.
On closer inspection, however, it appears that this novel borrows all its basic ideas from a more important book, published shortly before: Emile ou de l'Education by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The message in both books contained the following three ideas: 1) Childhood is an important phase of life, valuable in its own right. 2) Man should return to nature and to natural behaviour. 3) A simple undogmatic belief in the existence of a divine will behind nature and the universe.
The discovery of a connection between Lafontaine and Rousseau gives us the opportunity to think about Andersen's oeuvre in a new light. As the ideas of Rousseau presented a central challenge to all educated people at that time, it seems probable that Andersen's attitude and writings may be re-evaluated directly or indirectly in the tradition of Rousseau. The three main ideas might be posited as central for his entire output.
There were several reasons why Andersen did not himself become a Rousseauian romanticist or rebel. He was most certainly afraid of the dangers of a revolutionary life. Moreover he was afraid to succumb to an inheritance from his ancestors, the insanity in his father's family, or the moral degradation (alcoholism and sexual promiscuity) in his mother's. Furthermore, the study of unconscious motives has shown that his strong attraction to his mother and his conflict with his father were dangerous for him. Even in his childhood they were linked to hidden wishes that his father should be excluded from the relationship between the boy and his mother. Therefore he suffered from severe feelings of guilt when his father actually left home and later died.
Andersen's masculine identity was developmentally inhibited by this complex of emotional ties. Confronted with the upheavals of engagement in the conflicts of society he was scared. And, as an artist, he had to create his works in a niche between the ideational worlds of the two parents. From his safe position as a guest in the circle of the family he wrote his classical works, the fairy tales, partly for children - partly for adults.
In "The Ugly Duckling" one finds a rare harmony in the natural scenery, the harmony being disturbed, however, by the incidents in which the duckling is in trouble. The duckling flees from home while still half-grown (just like the main character in Lafontaine's novel, like Rousseau, and like Andersen himself). Eventually the duckling believes that everybody is chasing him and that the swans are going to kill him. He calls forth our feelings of pity by his deep, mad experience of being persecuted. Now and then Andersen had quite a strong feeling of being unjustly treated, but he never gave in to the conviction that he was actually persecuted. However much he knew of such feelings, he fought them successfully for the most part and sublimated them into his art. As a consequence of this, one of the notes he could strike to give profundity to his stories was this paranoia, the inheritance from his ancestors. By means of his fairy tale figures and his autobiography, Andersen helped generations of children and their educators to believe in the natural development of the individual and in society. And he warned them against the monomania of the faddist when it threatens to become the ruling principle. In the slogans of Rousseau such monomania was hidden, and Andersens work can be read partly as a reappraisal of the ideational world of Rousseau but also as a warning against its more ominous elements.