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European Journal of Scandinavian Studies

Ed. by Böldl, Klaus / Rühling, Lutz / van der Liet, Henk

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Towards an Ecology of the Self: Landscape, Body and Identity in Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa

Anna Persson
Published Online: 2016-06-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ejss-2016-0002

Abstract

This paper centers on Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa from an ecocritical perspective. When dealing with Blixen’s portrayal of the colonial environment there are multiple negotiations at play. Firstly, the question of identity is prominent from the perspective of the names she chose when publishing her works. Secondly, her role as a white woman in colonized Kenya in a British male dominated world is significant. These issues in turn tie in with her play with gender identities, both in her own life and in her fictional creations.

For Blixen as a farm owner in colonized Kenya the land appears to bear the function of a tool that places the self within the landscape in a way that bridges the gap between nature and culture, human and nonhuman. However, the land also affects the interhuman relations of the people on the farm. This paper carries out an ecocritical new materialist reading of the relationships between the human and more than human in Out of Africa using the material feminist concept trans-corporeality to discuss these issues. By tracing of the trans-corporeal relations in the text, this paper raises the question of how the permeability of the landscape shapes identity in Out of Africa. In doing so, this study offers a new perspective on the construction of selfhood in Out of Africa where Blixen’s text materializes as an account where questions of identity nationality, and gender can be seen as invariably connected to the entanglement of body and environment bridging the gap between nature and culture.

Literature

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Primary literature

Secondary literature

  • Ahmed, Sara 2008: “Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ‘New Materialism’.” In: European Journal of Women’s Studies. 15.23, 23–39.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Aiken, Susan Hardy 1990: Isak Dinesen and the Engendering of Narrative. Chicago.Google Scholar

  • Alaimo, Stacy 2010a: Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Bloomington.Google Scholar

  • Alaimo, Stacy 2010b: “The naked word: The trans-corporeal ethics of the protesting body.” In: Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 20.1. 15–36.Google Scholar

  • Alaimo, Stacy 2008: “Trans-Corporeal Feminisms and the Ethical Space of Nature.” In: Alaimo, Stacy / Susan Hekman (Eds.): Material Feminisms. Bloomington. 237–264.Google Scholar

  • Bennett, Jane 2010: Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham.Google Scholar

  • Bjørnvig, Thorkild 1982: “Karen Blixen og forsøgsdyrene.” In: Andersen, Hans / Frans Larsson (Eds.): Blixeniana 1982. Copenhagen. 150–161.Google Scholar

  • Brantly, Susan C. 2002: Understanding Isak Dinesen. Columbia.Google Scholar

  • Brundbjerg, Else 1995: Kvinden, kætteren, kunstneren Karen Blixen. Charlottenlund.Google Scholar

  • Butler, Judith 1990: Gender Trouble. New York.Google Scholar

  • Butler, Judith 2004: Undoing Gender. New York.Google Scholar

  • Cixous, Hélène 1976: “The Laugh of Medusa.” In: Signs. 1.4. 875–893.Google Scholar

  • Grosz, Elizabeth 2010: ”Notes Towards a Corporeal Feminism.” In: Australian Feminist Studies 2.5. 1–16.Google Scholar

  • Gunnars, Kristjana 1994: “Life as Fiction: Narrative Appropriation in Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa.” In: A. Woods, Gurli (Ed.): Isak Dinesen and Narrativity: Reassessments for the 1990s. Ottawa.Google Scholar

  • Heede, Dag 2001: Det Umenneskelige: Analyser af seksualitet, køn og identitet hos Karen Blixen. Odense.Google Scholar

  • Hird, Myra J. 2004: ”Feminist matters: New materialist considerations of sexual difference.” In: Feminist Theory 5.2. 223–232.Google Scholar

  • Iovino, Serenella and Serpil Opperman 2012: ”Material Ecocriticism: Materiality, Agency, and Models of Narrativity”. In: Ecozon@ 3.1: 75–91.Google Scholar

  • Kjældgaard, Lasse Horne 2012: ”En af de farligste bøger, der nogen sinde er skrevet om Afrika? Karen Blixen og kolonialismen.” In: Engberg, Charlotte / Jacob Bøggild (Eds.): Jeg havde en Farm i Afrika: æstetik og kulturmøde i Karen Blixens Den afrikanske Farm. Hellerup. 154–169.Google Scholar

  • Larsen, Svend Erik 1999: ”The National Landscape – a Cultural European Invention.” In: Palmberg, Mai (Ed.): National Identity and Democracy in Africa. Sweden. 59–79.Google Scholar

  • Lindén, Claudia 2009: ”Karen Blixen och maskulinitetens dekonstruktion: En läsning av ’The Old Chevalier’ / ’Den gamle vandrende Ridder’.” Samlaren. 130. 102–138.Google Scholar

  • Lundbo Levy, Jette 2012: ”Når Don Quijote er en kvinde.” In: Elisabeth Møller Jensen et al. (Ed.): Nordisk kvindelitteraturhistorie tredje bind: Vide verden 1900–1960. 260–273.Google Scholar

  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o 1981: ”Prison Notes.” In: Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary. London. 2–28.Google Scholar

  • Odipo, Dominic 2006: ”A letter to Baroness Blixen: Out of Africa!” In: Mail & Guardian: Africa’s Best Read. 31 May 2006. [http://mg.co.za/article/2006-05-31-a-letter-to-baroness-blixen-out-of-africa].

  • Pickering, Andrew 1995: The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency & Science. Chicago.Google Scholar

  • Selboe, Tone 1996: Kunst og erfaring: En studie i Karen Blixens forfatterskap. Odense.Google Scholar

  • Selboe, Tone 2012: ”Stemme og antropologi i Den Afrikanske Farm.” In: Engberg, Charlotte / Jacob Bøggild (Eds.): Jeg havde en Farm i Afrika: æstetik og kulturmøde i Karen Blixens Den afrikanske Farm. Hellerup. 20–35.Google Scholar

  • Spurr, David 1993: The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration. Durham.Google Scholar

  • ”Squatter.” In: Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2014. [http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/188262?rskey=Z31Q7E&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid].

  • ”Superior.” In: Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2014. [http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/194387?redirectedFrom=superior#eid].

  • ”Stormægtig.” In: Ordbog over det danske sprog. 1944. [http://ordnet.dk/ods/ordbog?query=storm%C3%A6gtig].

  • Wolfe, Cary 2003: ”In the Shadow of Wittgenstein’s Lion: Language, Ethics, and the Question of the Animal.” In: Wolfe, Cary (Ed.): Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. Minneapolis. 1–58.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2016-06-03

Published in Print: 2016-06-01


Citation Information: European Journal of Scandinavian Studies, Volume 46, Issue 1, Pages 16–33, ISSN (Online) 2191-9402, ISSN (Print) 2191-9399, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ejss-2016-0002.

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