Oehlenschlager, Adam

(1779-1850)
   A Danish poet and dramatist, Oehlenschlager was the central figure in Danish romanticism. With the exception of Johannes Ewald, who was active as a poet around the time of Oehlenschlager's birth, Oehlenschlager gets the credit for having advanced Danish literature from the neoclassicism of the mid to late 1700s and introduced the ideas and literary practice of romanticism not only to Denmark but to the rest of Scandinavia as well. While receptive to the ideas of German universal romanticism, Oehlenschlager soon transcended its limited aesthetics and adopted a national romanticism that emphasized both Danish nature and Scandinavia's glorious past. While Oehlenschlager wrote most of his groundbreaking works during approximately one decade, he was an active presence on the Scandinavian literary scene for half a century.
   Oehlenschlager's first significant literary work was his Digte (1803; Poems), which includes an epic section, a lyrical one, containing the poem "Guldhornene" (The Golden Horns)—a poem about two golden horns from 400 CE that were found by a farm boy and then stolen and probably melted down—and a dramatic section, consisting of the drama "Sanct Hansaften-Spil" (Saint John's Eve Play). This mixing of genres was an essential element among the German romantics. While spending four years abroad, Oehlenschlager next published his two-volume Poetiske Skrifter (1805; Poetic Writings). The first volume contains nature poetry in the two poetry cycles Langelands-Reise (Langeland Journey) and Jesu Christi gientagne Liv i den aarlige Natur (The Life of Jesus Christ Restored in the Annual Cycle of Nature). The second volume contains Vaulundurs Saga (Volund's Saga), which takes its theme from an Eddaic poem, and the five-act drama Aladdin (tr. 1857, 1968), in which good and evil are contrasted and where Aladdin, the representative ofthe forces of goodness, can triumph only after having been chastened and tested in adversity.
   Nordiske Digte (1807; Nordic Poems) represented a further turn toward national themes. The ancient Scandinavian gods Thor, Baldur, and Loki figure prominently, as do ancient heroes, for example, in Hakon Jarl (tr. 1857, 1874, 1905). Characters set in Danish history appear in Axel og Valborg (1810; tr. Axel and Valborg, 1851, 1873, 1874, 1906), a tragic love story.
   Oehlenschlager was later criticized for being overly sentimental by both Jens Baggesen and Johan Ludvig Heiberg. This criticism was deserved, for Oehlenschlager tended to shy away from presenting dramatic conflicts without any hope of resolution. Oehlenschlager's later works are simply not of the same high quality as his earlier ones. One exception is Helge (1814), in which wrongdoing destroys a family line until the misdeeds have been completely atoned for. A couple of plays from the 1840s also show that Oehlenschlager eventually caught on to the need to provide a more nuanced psychological portrayal of his characters.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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  • Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger — [Oehlenschläger s name is written with Oe and a umlaut (ä), not with the usual Danish Ø and æ.] (November 14, 1779 ndash; January 20, 1850) was a Danish poet and playwright. He introduced romanticism into Danish literature.BiographyHe was born in …   Wikipedia

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