In my presentation, I will place Hans Christian Andersen within the context of Gothic Studies with a particular focus on “Auntie Toothache” (1872). In this anti-fairy tale, he employs Gothic conventions to comment on the interface between “the real” and the artificially constructed and the consequent blurring of the borders between public and private, reality and illusion, originality and imitation, depth and surface - binaries which typically in Gothic fiction set off adjoining conflicts between reason and emotion, life and death, imagination and pathology, mind and body, self and other. The transgression of these boundaries frame, in Gothic often in the most shockingly graphic ways, a vehement testing of the perimeters of the self and concepts of identity and self-formation, in a Danish context the nineteenth-century construct of “Dannelse” or “Bildung,” which continues to govern the modern national consciousness. Contrary to common perceptions of Gothic, Andersen’s exploration of this is not at all removed from “reality” but rather serves to test the make-up of reality as an established construct.
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