Aarhus Universitets segl

Baronesse og Løvinde

Karen Blixen mellem politisk-socialt og moralsk-filosofisk aristokrati.


Christina Søndergaard Møller


The thesis is an investigation of the theme aristocracy in Isak Dinesen’s life and work.

For this purpose I have tried through an etymological and historical analysis to clarify the word aristocracy, which has got various different and opposing meanings. The word has from the beginning been characterized by two different meanings: 1) You were an aristocrat due to your political-social position, or 2) You were an aristocrat due to a certain moral-philosophical attitude to life, which emphasizes the concept of honour. My analysis of the word is through the rest of the thesis a tool for clarifying Isak Dinesen’s life and work in this perspective. Her European title, baroness, and her African title, lioness can be seen as emblems for the two meanings of aristocracy.

By making an account of her kinship I have concluded that Dinesen is situated between the middle classes and the aristocracy. She desires a position among the political-social aristocracy but at the same time she also views aristocracy as an attitude to life. An analysis of her emancipation as woman and from her family furthermore shows, that she was fascinated and wanted to realize the lifestyle of the male aristocrat.

Through a reading and analysis of her talks and essays it comes clear that the feudal ideology was her ideal and an ideal that combined the political-social and moral-philosophical meaning of aristocracy.

Out of Africa is the work of Dinesen in which her thoughts about aristocracy is most clearly expressed. Therefore this work is the main subject for my analysis. In Africa she lives out her aristocratic ideals. The country is an aristocratic world and the Africans are described as aristocrats by their attitude to life. As the title of the book shows Dinesens aristocratic life comes to an end. This is described as an existential catastrophe. Though due to her aristocratic attitude to life she is in the end able to embrace her destiny and view it as a distinction from the forces of life.

My reading of Out of Africa shows that the aristocratic view of life is existential, religious and artistic. The aristocrat wants to live out the idea behind his creation. At the same time he interprets and shapes his destiny after an aesthetic ideal. In the novel moral-philosophical aristocracy is viewed higher than the political-social. It is a person’s understanding of the tragedy that defines you as an aristocrat.

In the last part of the thesis I demonstrate how the theme aristocracy can be used as a tool to clarify conflicts in the works of Dinensen. By analysing three tales I show that the author both idealizes and undermines the concept of political-social aristocracy.

My conclusion in the end is that Dinesen is torn between the middle classes and aristocracy and also between the political-social and the moral-philosophical aristocracy.

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