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Where does 'die Asta' belong? The role of national identity in Asta Nielsen's German and Danish reception in the early 1920s

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This article analyses the phenomenon of the discursive Germanization of the Danish silent film star Asta Nielsen in the Danish press of the early 1920s, emblematized by the increasing use of the value-laden moniker 'die Asta', in order to illustrate the symbolic implications for the Danish economy and culture of Nielsen's professional success in post-World War I Germany. By contrasting Nielsen with her rival Henny Porten, who represents an ideal of traditional Germanic womanhood, I demonstrate how Nielsen's reception in Germany as quintessentially Nordic runs counter to a widespread Danish perception of her as having abandoned her homeland in favour of a German national identity. While the rejection of Nielsen in Denmark can be interpreted as the result of a peculiarly Danish narrow-mindedness, the discrepancy between Nielsen's early popularity in Denmark and her reception in the late 1910s and the early 1920s also offers evidence of the significance of economic and political factors.

Keywords: 1920s; Asta Nielsen; Denmark; Henny Porten; discursive Germanisation; early German cinema; national identity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Publication date: 2012-01-31

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  • The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema is a new scholarly journal devoted to film in the Scandinavian countries. It aims to become the prime site for excellent research and engaging discussions on cinema in Scandinavia, both within the national context of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and as a region existing in a globalized world.
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