Hans Christian Andersen and the Commodification of Creativity
Edited by Helle Porsdam
Chapter 2: On Real Nightingales and Mechanical Reproductions
Stina Teilmann Hans Christian Andersen (1805–75) lived in a century during which ‘authenticity’ came to be an important marker of value. The Romantic Movement in art and literature celebrated ‘authentic expression’. Philosophy and political thinking began to emphasize the significance of ‘authentic being’.1 As a result ‘authenticity’ was given a new sense in the nineteenth century. No longer a mere synonym for ‘authoritative’ and ‘authorized’ (‘legally valid’), ‘authentic’ became important in the sense of ‘being real and actual’ as opposed to ‘counterfeit’ or ‘copied’.2 Andersen shared his contemporaries’ fascination with authenticity. Indeed some of his most famous fairy tales reveal an intense concern with the significance of being authentic or ‘real’. Thus the opening lines of ‘The Princess on the Pea’ (1835): Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess. But she had to be a real princess. He travelled all over the world to find her, yet everywhere he went, something was the matter. There were certainly enough princesses, but he couldn’t be sure that they were real princesses – there was always something that wasn’t right. He came home and was very sad because he so wanted to marry a real princess.3 A princess comes and knocks on the door, and she claims to be a real princess. The old queen, the prince’s mother, gives her 20 mattresses and 20 eiderdowns on which to sleep, and puts a dried pea underneath. The next morning, when the princess complains how badly she has...
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