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Ibsen's Hedda GablerPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Kristin Gjesdal

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190467876

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190467876.001.0001

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Hedda Gabler and the Uses of Beauty

Hedda Gabler and the Uses of Beauty

(p.71) 3 Hedda Gabler and the Uses of Beauty
Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

Thomas Stern

Oxford University Press

Ibsen connects the character of Hedda Gabler with beauty in two ways. First, there is her attractiveness, both functional and transient, which is associated in the play with the concept of loveliness (as indicated by the term ‘lovely’, [dejlig]). Second is her ideal of beauty [skønhed] and, relatedly, of freedom—ostensibly a peculiar ideal in that it appears to be both free from any meaningful content and, more importantly, useless. The play also explores usefulness and uselessness in relation to the work of its two historians. This chapter offers a critical analysis of how various Marxist critics, including Löwenthal and Adorno, tried to make sense of the relation between use, beauty, and those historians’ academic work. Ultimately the central notion at work in the play is that of not being conditioned by external forces, although Ibsen’s take on the possibility and desirability of such a condition remains highly ambiguous.

Keywords:   Adorno, Löwenthal, Ibsen, Hedda Gabler, Karl Marx

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