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I lecture about biography as a genre, about the school pioneer Nathalie Zahle, and about the controversial minister Bodil Koch, amongst other subjects. As you can see from my list of publications and from my activities as author, researcher and director, I have a wide range of interests. Within the scope of my expertise, you are welcome to suggest a topic about which you would like to hear more.
On the art of the historical biography.
The historical biography has always been an element in the telling of history. Today, however, it has moved into a pole position and during the last decade, we have labelled it "the biographical turn". The biography is of central importance to the present, to history and to the audience. We all know that the story of the single individual can throw fresh and vivid light on power, politics, finance and culture. But how has it been narrated through history? How to understand the biographical archetypes, and how to repeat or avoid them today? Which narrative strategies can we trace? Do biography have gender? What about the private sphere, the intimate personal story and the professional persona? Which ethical challenges does the subject of the biography throw out to the biographer? The lecture looks at the many ways in which historical biographies can be read and written, with examples from Antiquity to today – and considers the pros and cons of biographical narrative. The lecture is illustrated.
A story of gender, power and education. How did a young woman, orphaned at an early age, manage to fish in troubled waters, lay the foundation of a women's movement and provide generations of women with an education? Natalie Zahle (1827-1913) was a pioneering educationalist and school principal. She was labelled queen, commander-in-chief, mother, reformer, seductress of women. She was not, however, an either-or kind of person. As an adult she was head of her chosen family, head of an educational empire, an entrepreneur and a power seeker – and a restless, searching soul. In mid-19th-century Denmark there were no formal educational opportunities for females over the age of fourteen. In 1851 Natalie Zahle established a school which in the course of ten years became one of the largest and most reputable schools in the country and with time an integrated educational empire providing primary and secondary schooling and teacher training, a model which inspired the development of the national Danish educational system at the beginning of the 20th century.The lecture is illustrated.
Politician, Minister and Polemicist.
The lecture tells the story of the humanist, feminist and government minister Bodil Koch (1903-1972). As a politician she was an agent provocateur. She herself was 'provoked' by the Nazis and the German occupation of Denmark during the Second World War, and she was also provoked by what she considered her sisters' too passive fight for freedom, and for democracy. In 1950 the prime minister, Hans Hedtoft, made her one of the first women to hold ministerial office in Denmark. She made a deep impression on cultural and ecclesiastical policy, but she is particularly remembered for her interventions in foreign policy. She would tread on her own government's toes with her forthright opinions on NATO, nuclear arms race, the Soviet Union, and US involvement in Vietnam. She had enormous impact and a high profile in Danish public life, but she was just as well-known on the international stage for saying the right things in the wrong places – both to the US Secretary of State and the Soviet premier. The lecture is illustrated.