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"There are many that I can be": The Poetics of Self-Performance in Isak Dinesen's "The Dreamers"


Straumann, Barbara (2010). "There are many that I can be": The Poetics of Self-Performance in Isak Dinesen's "The Dreamers". In: Junod, Karen; Maillat, Didier. Performing the Self. Tübingen: Narr, 153-163.

Abstract

This paper looks at issues of identity in relation to artistic performances of the feminine self. Isak Dinesen’s story “The Dreamers” from her collection Seven Gothic Tales (1934) is remarkably in tune with contemporary theories of identity construction, notably with Judith Butler’s concept of gender performance. Pellegrina Leoni, the protagonist of Dinesen’s tale, is an acclaimed opera singer who loses her voice in a tragic accident. After having herself symbolically buried, she assumes an infinite series of masks and masquerades. My reading demonstrates how by abandoning her rigid star persona, Dinesen’s heroine comes to perform a far more mobile selfhood. Her relentless role-play stands in stark contrast to a narrative desire which seeks to impose a stable identity upon her and by which she is eventually killed in a fatal scene of interpellation. By reading “The Dreamers” as a quasi-manifesto of Isak Dinesen’s art, I argue that her poetic project feeds on a complex dialectics of self-masking and self-presentation. It is in and through her masquerade that this modernist writer develops a compelling form of feminine self-expression.

Abstract

This paper looks at issues of identity in relation to artistic performances of the feminine self. Isak Dinesen’s story “The Dreamers” from her collection Seven Gothic Tales (1934) is remarkably in tune with contemporary theories of identity construction, notably with Judith Butler’s concept of gender performance. Pellegrina Leoni, the protagonist of Dinesen’s tale, is an acclaimed opera singer who loses her voice in a tragic accident. After having herself symbolically buried, she assumes an infinite series of masks and masquerades. My reading demonstrates how by abandoning her rigid star persona, Dinesen’s heroine comes to perform a far more mobile selfhood. Her relentless role-play stands in stark contrast to a narrative desire which seeks to impose a stable identity upon her and by which she is eventually killed in a fatal scene of interpellation. By reading “The Dreamers” as a quasi-manifesto of Isak Dinesen’s art, I argue that her poetic project feeds on a complex dialectics of self-masking and self-presentation. It is in and through her masquerade that this modernist writer develops a compelling form of feminine self-expression.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:14 Feb 2011 14:25
Last Modified:11 May 2016 09:49
Publisher:Narr
Series Name:SPELL: Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature
Number:24
ISSN:0940-0478
ISBN:978-3-8233-6613-3
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&con_lng=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=006326253

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