Adoptees and Americans: Exporting Hans Christian Andersen and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)

  • Clara Juncker University of Southern Denmark
Keywords: Adoption, Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen, Fairy tales, US reception


Hans Christian Andersen and Karen Blixen (aka.) Isak Dinesen have been widely read in America, with Hollywood’s Out of Africa adaptation adding to the attention. Both writers dramatized their alienation with adoption stories reaching across national and racial boundaries. They became iconic writers in the US for many reasons, but their preoccupation with adoption has been insufficiently explored. In fact, their transnational, transracial, transsexual, and cross-species adoption tales have entered US conversations about the Other, since the adoptee arrives in familial structures from “other” ideological, economic, or racial locations. Their adoption tales further fit American rights discourses, by insisting on the rights of belonging and conditions of freedom laid down by reason and law. They also subscribe to emotional discourses that evoke in the audience empathy and emotions related to dignity and humanity. Fairy tale adoptions fit the classic American quest narrative—Huck Finn-style—in which a heroic protagonist takes off into the unknown to find an identity, rooted in liberty, independence, and freedom. In a 21st-century world populated by migrants, refugees, orphans, adoptees, adoptive parents, and adopted or adoptive nations, Andersen and Blixen communicate with global adoption narratives the need for new ideological constellations of family, community, and nation.

Author Biography

Clara Juncker, University of Southern Denmark

Clara Juncker, Ph.D., Tulane University 1986; Dr. Phil. (“doktordisputats”),
University of Southern Denmark, 2002, Associate Professor, Department
for the Study of Culture, American Studies Program, University of Southern
Denmark, Odense. She has published widely on both sides of the Atlantic
within the fields of 19th- and 20th-century American Literature and Culture,
African American Studies, Transnational Studies, Southern Studies, Academic
Writing, Gender Studies, War and Culture, and American Art.


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How to Cite
Juncker, C. (2022). Adoptees and Americans: Exporting Hans Christian Andersen and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) . American Studies in Scandinavia, 54(1), 6-26.