Literature of Denmark

The oldest traces of a scriptural Danish spiritual life can be found on the rune stones of the beginning Danish language form, which in a number of about 240 have been erected in the period from 750 to the 1100s. In some places there are traces of ancient poetry, and a certain regular structure may also indicate a poetic form.

1000-1400 century

After the year 1000, the actual runic style and its spiritual content begin to decay, and Latin and Christian influences come into play. Shortly afterwards, the runes were replaced by the Gothic alphabet, and in the Danish medieval literature there are only a few runes written works. The Latin literature, of course, is written in Latin letters, and is naturally connected especially to the monasteries; here were written saint biographies, chronicles and annals.

In Valdemaren’s heyday, Svend Aggesen and Saxo Grammaticus, fueled by national enthusiasm and the urge to support the royal power, led the story far above the annalistic form, Aggesen in his brief Compendiosa history regum Daniæ, Saxo in his great work Gesta Danorum, one of the newer European the most important works of Latin literature. Although Saxo was probably a clergyman, his great work is truly worldly in his spirit and tendency. Anders Sunesen created the spiritual main work of Danish Latin medieval poetry, the great hexameter poem Hexaëmeron of 8000 verses, which produces the scholastic the dogma of theology.

At the same time, literature in the mother tongue developed, mixed with Latin as in the medical books, Henrik Harpestreng and King Valdemar’s land book, or completely free of foreign influence, as in the old landscape laws. In the period after 1350, there was in addition to this diploma (letter), a more and more Danish-written monastic literature, chronicles and translations. The poetry included religious poems, Mary poems by the monk Peder Ræff Litle, Mr. Michael’s Danish rhymes, translations of chivalry poems, animal rhymes and with domestic material, the rhyme chronicle.

The poem of the Middle Ages probably also made up the majority of folk songs, although they were written in the books of the Reformation in an original form. They are the most significant poetic products in the earliest Danish literature and also represent by their quantity most of it.


The 16th century broke decisively with the Middle Ages; humanism, reformation and artistic renaissance created a whole new cultural content. Latin humanism is marked in Danish literature through Christiern Pedersen’s publishing work of Saxo and dictionaries, other names being Petrus Parvus, the physician Henrik Smid and Erasmus Lætus ( Rasmus Glad ), who became known for his historical Latin poems. Humanism was nevertheless completely supplanted by the popular Reformation movement, which characterizes literary literature in the 16th century as a struggle between Catholicism ( Povl Helgesen ) and Lutherans, Christiern Pedersen, Hans Tausen andPeder Palladius, who with his visitas book gives us the clearest expression of the endeavors of the time in the direction of organizing the new church.

Bible translations culminate with Christian 3 ‘s Bible (1550). Poetry was also to some extent in the service of the agitation, most important is the hymnal with reworkings of older Catholic hymns, newly written and collected in Hans Thomissøn ‘s hymnbook. The most important spiritual poet was Hans Christensen Sthen.

The third major flow of the 16th century, the Renaissance movement, has left traces in Danish scientific and prose literature. Names such as Niels Hemmingsen and Tyge Brahe are among the finest in Europe, and the national historiography reveals the tendency to create an honorable past when a historiographical work was established. Among the historians was Anders Sørensen Vedel, whose planned national and humane works were admittedly only in progress, but who, in his translation of Saxo and the folk edition, did a large business, and Arild Huitfeldt, who wrote a complete chronicle of the Kingdom of Denmark, based on careful documentary studies.


The 17th century is above all the learned century. The most important works of Danish literature are related to the work of the university people; Ole Worm studied the ancient Nordic, Ole Christensen Rømer was a well-known physicist, the Bartholines cleared ground in medicine and the greatest Danish personality of the century, Niels Stensen, developed from an outstanding analyst into a glowing mystic.

Poetry was given a new style of art in the 1600s with specific requirements and conditions, which was introduced when Anders Arrebo laid down the rules for the construction of the Danish verse. Only two poets have created larger-format poetry; Anders C. Bording and especially Thomas Kingo, whose hymns were the greatest dictatorial efforts of this century.

The prose was developed through translations, memoirs, diaries and the like, so that the Danish language at the beginning of the 18th century can be said to be ready to take on any literary genre.


The 18th century religion was deism, its outlook on life was optimism, and its morality was that virtue is what can create the greatest possible happiness for as many people as possible. Literally, the century was divided between post-classicism, which retained the classical art forms, but used them in the service of virtue agitation, and pre-romance, which created new art forms, the Nordic tragedy and the sensitive romance. The artwork was judged by its ability to move the mind.

The time until 1740 was a classic period; Tøger Reenberg wrote his poetics, Christian Falster and Ludvig Holberg satires, and the latter, with the epic Peder Paars, created a work that took part in the European discussion of the superiority of the old or the new, and joined the modern flow. His comedies were the big business of Danish-Norwegian classicism, his moral letters and historical works invigorate the genres and show him as the tireless writer, the foremost of Danish-Norwegian literature of format and strongest of convictions. In history, he was far more essayist than his contemporary, Hans Gram, who first used source criticism.

At the same time Hans Adolph Brorson and Ambrosius Stub prepared a magnificent lyrical breakthrough. For the next 30 years, the period 1740-1770, a number of men continued in the spirit of Holberg; they were not so original, but so much more eager to fight for the culture. Frederik Christian Eilschow, Jørgen Riis and Jens Kraft were the first litter of young philosophers, Jens S. Sneedorff and Andreas Schytte the second, who developed the Danish prose into classical maturity. Poetry was cultivated by the Norwegian Christian B. Tullin in great poetry, by the Norwegian Peter C. Stenerson in odes.

The decade 1770–1780 brought the last sparses of post-classicism: The Norwegian company around Johan Herman Wessel and his colleagues, Claus Frimann, Claus Fasting and others, and the first emergence of pre-Romanticism with Johannes Ewald, which expanded the knowledge of Europe (which for the classics was only 1600 France’s) by reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the English and the Germans, especially Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. He introduced the Nordic tragedy and created the most pathetic, lyrical poem of the century and its whimsical prose.

The Danish literary society, which joined his efforts, failed to create viable poetry, and the last 20 years expired, ruled by rationalism ( Christian Bastholm ), sentimentality ( Knud Lyhne Rahbek ) and political agitation literature ( Peter Andreas Heiberg, Malthe Conrad Bruun ), and of the favorite genres of the period, the drinking song. The only big name was Jens Baggesen, who looks forward to a fantasy poem and a return to an emotional poem in a bizarre way. As an artist and linguist, he was one of the greatest in Danish literature.


The romance began in the 19th century and prevailed until 1824. The inspiration was German, but with a happy balance between German classicism ( Goethe – Schiller ) and Jenar Romanticism. The imagination gets its rightful place, the work of art no longer to be determined by its ability to make an impression, but by its own inner and deeper harmony. The ruling philosopher was Friedrich von Schelling, who taught Henrik Steffens most of what he preached at the lectures in 1802 that usher in Danish romance. The main point is the mysterious unity between nature and spirit, and the assertion of religion and history as revelations of the divine.

Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger ‘s youth works developed great linguistic virtuosity and general human fullness. He filled the tragedy and romance for the first time with vigor; he re-voted the prose in Vaulundur. His influence was noticeable until 1870. Of temper, the more divisive and abominable Adolf Schack Staffeldt was his direct opposition; On the other hand, Johannes C. Hauch and Bernhard S. Ingemann first found their real field in a similarly calm harmony after going through periods of crisis that led them far into German speculation. Nikolai FS Grundtvig belongs to the same period, but had more popular and religious significance than literary.

Under the influence of Hegelian philosophy, introduced in Denmark by Johanne Luise Heiberg, and Anglo-French romanticism, a reorientation took place from about 1824. As in early romance, passion and feeling remained at the center. The differences are found in greater interest for the contemporary, in greater intellectual distance and a stricter design language. The new literary signals were brought forward in Johanne L. Heiberg’s aesthetics – grounded in Georg WF Hegel ‘s philosophy – and given his examples in vaudeviller by himself and Henrik Hertz, stories by Thomasine C. Gyllembourg and Carl Bernhard.

1830s romanticism was a major period in Danish literature: Christian Winther ‘s and Emil Aarestrup ‘s lyricism flourished, Carl Christian Bagger wrote one of his first novels and Steen Steensen Blicher completed his realistic short story poetry. HC Andersen began his adventure, which created a new genre out of an old one.

The composite “interesting” character was the focus of romanticism’s reflected aesthetic pleasure. The same was true of the young Frederik Paludan-Müller, who in the 1840s rose above aesthetics with his later ethical writing. The contemporary Søren Kierkegaard examined the interesting in-depth. In him, the aestheticism of romanticism is problematic in relation to the ethical and religious, and both the Hegelian system and the harmony of romance between art and religion are rejected. The only thing left is the individual’s choice. In the 1840s, political was put on the agenda, among others in Carl Ploug’s poems and plays.

HC Andersen

Most important was the prose with the refined and fine novelist and novelist Meïr Aron Goldschmidt and the early deceased Hans Egede Schack. Weaker lyric and drama, which did not avoid the reverberations of, among others, Hans Vilhelm Kaalund, Christian Richardt and Christian KF Molbech. At the same time, the influence of the prominent natural sciences was felt by the philosophers, and the whole situation pulled up for a revision.


The revision came with the naturalism of the 1870s. In his view of life it was inspired by the English doctrine of evolution, in his aesthetics of French determinism, in his morality of English morality, and as a German influence it has the results of biblical criticism. Humans were no longer seen as related to something divine when this was replaced, but in the context of nature and the animal-organic. The idealizing style of romance was replaced by a sharp-realist who sought to bring the unadorned reality as close to life as possible.

The new idea proclamation took place with Georg Brandes ‘ lectures in 1871; its main performers were Jens Peter Jacobsen and Holger Drachmann, less significant Sophus Schandorph; outside the circuit, but with the same technique, Vilhelm Topsøe. The mood of the 1880s was more bitter; Herman Bang ‘s and Henrik Pontoppidan ‘s poems were less trendy than their predecessors; they were after the breakthrough and had jumped out of this. The 1890s brought a religious and soulful reaction to the rigorous naturalism: Johannes Jørgensen, Helge Rode, Viggo Stuckenberg and Sophus Claussen, in the criticism Valdemar Vedel and Vilhelm Andersen.


At the beginning of the 20th century, in general, technique and method continued naturalism, but in religious beliefs also showed religiously emphasized idealists. Realism won new ground in the hometown literature: Jeppe Aakjær, Johan Skjoldborg, Martin Andersen Nexø, who at the same time introduced the social novel by Harry Søiberg and others. Johannes V. Jensen also started in the sense of origin, but extended it to a Gothic Renaissance, inspired by the evolutionary theory. Through his style he exerted a great influence on the following genealogies, not least on that expressionismwho, around 1920, tried to form a school, but was blown away leaving the ballroom as it was before; an outpouring of naturalism with occasional political or religious signals.

The first part of the wartime was marked by a bitter reaction to the festivities of expressionism, including Tom Kristensen ‘s and Jacob Paludan ‘s novels and Otto Gelsted ‘s lyric, and scattered attempts at reassessment and reorientation (the critically-essayistic so-called “view of life”). Around 1930, a new generation of writers emerged, bringing with it artistic or collective novel (H. Kirk, Harald Herdal, O. Fischer, Knud Sønderby ) and the resurrected, “retreathed” drama ( Carl Erik Soya, Kaj Munk, Kjeld Abell ), but also had some freely fabulous talents likeNis Petersen and Karen Blixen. The same generation also belonged to the satirist Hans Scherfig.

Around 1940, prose art received renewal through the psychological novel or short story by, among others, Aage Dons, Hans Christian Branner, Michael Tejn, Tove Ditlevsen and, under the pressure of time, the historical narrative ( Kelvin Lindemann ) or the fantastic satirical travel novel ( Martin A. Hansen ).

The German occupation (1940–1945) elicited an active poetry of resistance by, among others, the lyricists Morten Nielsen, Halfdan Rasmussen and Poul Sørensen, among the elderly especially Kaj Munk; Ole Juuls emphasizes many of the later occupation novels. The post-war religious quest came to the attention of the young lyricists, especially the group around the journal Heretica, but its purely human crises found the most significant expression of some older poets such as Martin Alfred Hansen, Hans Christian Branner and Paul de la Cour.

After 1950, modernist directions applied to European models, earliest in the lyric with forerunners of Ole Sarvig and Erik Knudsen and highlights of Klaus Rifbjerg and Jørgen Sonne; somewhat later in prose art, from absurd fables by Villy Sørensen and Peter Seeberg to the 1960s far-flung novel experiments by Ulla Ryum and Svend Åge Madsen.

After 1965

Now the experiments with the specific language material led to the dissolution of the boundary between lyric and prose. They produced “texts”, either “new-simple”, punctual recording – partly according to the Swedish pattern – or built up according to an internal system in the so-called system poetry of, among others, Per Højholt, Hans-Jørgen Nielsen and Inger Christensen. Thus, the writing process became a creation process that also requires the reader’s involvement. More traditionally, the so-called “kid realists”, such as Anders Bodelsen, Henrik Stangerup and Christian Kampmann, worked with suspense and environmental novels.

A renewal of the storyteller genre has especially occurred through documentary elements; both of a historical nature at Thorkild Hansen, and using current reports, interviews, montages and the like. These forms were utilized in the 1970s by the socially and politically conscious directions that gathered on labor and women’s issues, on the conditions of industrial society and the impact of the mass media. Radio and TV were also used artistically in competition with the entertainment industry ( Leif Panduro ). Similarly, the playwrights used funds from revue and musical for socially critical purposes, among others Ernst Bruun Olsen.

The literature of women has been particularly powerful, with names such as Elsa Gress, Dorrit Willumsen, Suzanne Brøgger, Dea Trier Mørch and Kirsten Thorup. But also the problems of ecology and developing countries have been addressed, with mythical perspectives at Vagn Lundbye and Ib Michael. Complicated and reflective narrative forms replaced the unreal realism, for example with Poul Vad, Henrik Bjelke and Jens Smærup Sørensen, in response to the fact that the 1970s politicization and fixation on ideology and messages could lead to an artless style in debate books or in the so-called “crack prose” “.

A similar reaction from around 1980 has resulted in a lyrical high flowering, where imagination and dream have come to dignity and the imagery has been strongly developed, for example with Michael Strunge, Bo Green Jensen and Pia Tafdrup. The latter is behind the generational anthology Transformation (1986). The new poetry created a principled discussion of poetics. Postmodernism’s problematization of “the great stories”, on the one hand, caused a playful relationship with older forms of expression, on the other a new provision of the poetry.

Characteristic of the poetry of the 1980s and 1990s was that it was based on the physical, but also related intensely to a metaphysical body. Various forms of minimalist prose were used, but the large audience preferred psychological or fantastic storytellers such as Ib Michael, Peter Høeg and Jens Christian Grøndahl.