The Wilder the Starting Point: Some Critical Remarks to Michael Meyer's Ibsen: A Biography

By Nygaard, Jon | Scandinavian Studies, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

The Wilder the Starting Point: Some Critical Remarks to Michael Meyer's Ibsen: A Biography


Nygaard, Jon, Scandinavian Studies


INTRODUCTION

Like most who have studied Ibsen, I have also thought that we now know all that is worth knowing about Ibsen's life and works, and so we can just add some fancy details and new perspectives. The intention of the new critical edition Henrik Ibsens skrifter (2006-2010; Henrik Ibsen's Writings) was accordingly to present and comment upon all his writings in order to give a contemporary reader an understanding of the original meaning of the texts. After the last volume of Henrik Ibsens skrifter was published in 2010, from a certain point of view, there should have been no more questions left to ask. But the very same year, 2010, the first contributions of a new school of thought in Ibsen studies were presented. The aim of this school was to find new answers to the important question: How could one of the most important dramatic writers in world history be born in a small underdeveloped country in the European periphery?

Henrik Ibsens skrifter and most Ibsen scholars had answered this question by declaring Ibsen as a genius, a wonder--and had explained and interpreted his writings through his reading of other authors. The new school wanted instead to try to find historical and "practical" explanations. Ibsen became important because he was born in Norway--and not despite the fact that he was born in Norway. His works had to be explained by what he actually had done and what he had learned from it.

In order to question the myth of the genius Ibsen, the new school both started to dig into the details of Ibsen's biography and to explore his Norwegian background. The result showed how surprisingly little we actually know about Ibsen and how little of our knowledge is based on biographical and empirical facts. The search for details was therefore not an end in its own right, but a necessary condition for a re-evaluation of Ibsen's life and work. The explanation ot his Norwegian background is not just an expression of Norwegian national pride, but an attempt to underline the "otherness" of Norway, compared with other European nations and even its Scandinavian neighbors.

In this article, I will continue in this new school of thought in Ibsen studies by discussing the sources of the, by far, most comprehensive and important biography on Ibsen--Michael Meyer's Ibsen: A Biography. Originally it was published in three volumes as The Making of a Dramatist 1828-1864 (1967), The Farewell to Poetry 1864-1882 (1971), and The Top of a Cold Mountain 1883-1906 (1971), and was then collected in one volume in 1971 as Ibsen: A Biography. Since then Ibsen: A Biography has been regarded internationally as the classic presentation of Ibsen's life and work, and it was subsequently published in a one-volume version abridged by the author in 1974, 1985, and 1992. Also in Norway, Meyer's Ibsen: A Biography has been regarded as the standard reference work on Ibsen, and it has been translated into Norwegian and published in one volume in three editions in 197E 1995> and 2006. Meyers opinions and evaluations not only of Ibsen and his background, but also of Ibsen's Norway are established so firmly that they have influenced recent presentations by Norwegian scholars such as Helge Ronning (2006), Toril Moi (2006), and Ivo de Figueiredo (2006, 2007), and even the commentaries and background information in the new edition of Henrik Ibsen's writings, Henrik Ibsens skrifter.

In full recognition of Michael Meyer's impressive knowledge of Ibsen's life and work, which hardly any non-Norwegian has had before him or will have after him, it is still necessary to question his sources and his biases and assumptions. In this article, I will therefore take up the challenge of the new school launched by Narve Fulsas' in his article "Ibsen Misrepresented" in Ibsen Studies (2011). He claimed that Scandinavian scholars, and I will underline especially that Norwegian scholars, have a responsibility to re-historicize and re-contextualize Ibsen's works to counteract and correct the potential imperialism of what Casanova (1999), Moretti (2000), Damrosch (2003, 2009), and others have described as the system of world literature. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Wilder the Starting Point: Some Critical Remarks to Michael Meyer's Ibsen: A Biography
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.