The Disenchantment of the Wonderful - A Doll’s House and the Idealist Imagination


  • Ulla Kallenbach University of Copenhagen



imagination, Henrik Ibsen, Idealism, Romanticism, philosophy


During the course of the nineteenth century, the notion of imagination under- went a radical redefinition. From being the highest, divine, power of man to being subjected to a growing pathologization and degradation, the redefinition of imagination played a central role in the transition from idealism and roman- ticism to the emerging modernism and realism. Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879) may be read into this particular context with its ‘disenchantment’ of the ‘wonderful’ – a word which Georg Brandes termed the very keyword of romanticism. Focusing on the specific Scandinavian context, where idealist aesthetics continued to be particularly strong, I will examine A Doll’s House from the perspective of the contemporary spectator in the context of an on-going Nordic aesthetic dispute. The contemporary Scandinavian reviews will serve to bear evidence of this dispute. In the article, I analyse how the play thematizes imagination and employs recurrent references to idealist culture in order to disenchant the romantic imagination of the wonderful. The analysis will focus in particular on the representation of the characters of Nora and Helmer, but also comes to implicate the spectator of the play.

Author Biography

Ulla Kallenbach, University of Copenhagen

Ulla Kallenbach holds a PhD (2014) in Arts and Cultural Studies from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, where she is currently External Lecturer. She received her MA in Text and Performance in 2005 (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) / King’s College London) and an MA in Theater Studies in 2007 (University of Copenhagen) with the prize dissertation Space and Visuality in the Drama Text. Her primary fields of research deal with the cultural history of imagination in philosophy and drama as well as various aspects of dramaturgy. She is a board member of the Association of Nordic Theatre Scholars and is presently the Co-Editor of Nordic Theatre Studies.


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How to Cite

Kallenbach, U. (2014). The Disenchantment of the Wonderful - A Doll’s House and the Idealist Imagination. Nordic Theatre Studies, 26(2), 76–87.



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