The Übermensch comes to Scandinavia: rereading Hamsun and Dinesen in the light of Nietzsche's philosophy
This dissertation seeks to clarify the works of Knut Hamsun (1859--1952) and Isak Dinesen (1885--1962) in the light of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy (1844--1900). The author considers Hamsun and Dinesen a "step-son" and a "step-daughter" of modernity, in line with Georg Brandes' interpretation of Nietzsche as a "step-child" in his time---in opposition to modern civilization, culture, philosophy, and morality---when he presented Nietzsche to his Scandinavian audience through his lectures in Copenhagen in 1888.Both Hamsun's and Dinesen's critiques of modernity are, like Nietzsche's, fundamental to their works. Rejecting the rigid rules and norms of modern philosophy and Christian Puritan ethics, they do not formulate a new political program for a future society, but focus their attention instead on the individual who they see as the mover of cultural change on the artistic-existential level. Hence, the author focuses in particular on the Nietzschean protagonists in the works of Hamsun and Dinesen, discussing, for instance, their use of masks to survive as outsiders and to defend their artistic-existential projects. Further, the author argues that these projects are fueled by a pantheistic conviction in line with Nietzsche's Dionysian pantheism and the eternal recurrence Nietzsche's prophet Zarathustra preaches.Finally the author discusses Hamsun's fascination with and Dinesen's disturbing views on Hitler as symptomatic of their disregard for the majority of people while celebrating the artistic-existential projects of great individuals. The author emphasizes the importance of recognizing this as a weakness related to their artistic-existential philosophy; a risk that they may be inclined to support a political alternative that is socially destructive while focusing on the opportunities it implies for the individual. This does not, however, mean that we must reject their work. Rather we should approach their work critically and separate the constructive from the destructive in their critiques of modernity.