Centre for Continuing Education

Cultural Connections Course: Denmark in the Golden Age

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This history course will focus on the cultural life on Denmark during its Golden Age of the early to mid-19th century, and aims to deepen your appreciation of the outstanding contributions made by H C Andersen to Danish literature, August Bournonville to the development of the Royal Danish Ballet Company, Kierkegaard to philosophy, Thorvaldsen to sculpture, Hansen and Bindesboll to architecture, and Dahl, Eckersberg, Hansen and other artists of the time to painting in Denmark. As participants develop their familiarity with the works of this exceptional flowering of intellectual and cultural life in Denmark, it will help them to understand the emergence of Denmark from a relatively provincial isolation at the beginning of the 19th century to that of a major European state by the later 19th century.


On completion of this history course participants will:

  • Have a deeper understanding of the different personalities studied, their achievements and social environment in which they lived.
  • Be able to appreciate the increasingly important role played by literature and the arts and their contribution to a growing sense of national pride in Denmark.
  • Be competent to discuss the social changes that were occurring in Denmark at this time, from the end of the Napoleonic wars through to a period of increasing industrialisation and personal liberty.
  • Be able to enjoy a more informed overview of the achievement of the major figures of this period.


The course content which will be covered in this history course will includes:

The life of H C Andersen

We will examine several of his stories in detail, with emphasis on ‘Iisjomfruen’ (The Ice Maiden), one of his most mature tales, and its adaptation by Stravinsky as a ballet.

August Bournonville

August Bournonville’s work at the Royal Danish Ballet will be examined, especially his masterpieces ‘La Sylphide’ (1836) and ‘Napoli’ (1841) which are the oldest European ballets that can still performed be performed with their original choreography.

The Philosophy of Kierkegaard

The existentialist philosophy of Kierkegaard with its exploration of the themes of alienation, the meaning of life and true happiness, redemption, and the importance of the leap of faith.


The neo-classical sculptures of Thorvaldsen and his European-wide success and recognition.

Danish artists and architects of the 19th century

The work of the Danish artists and architects of the first half of the nineteenth century, and the transition from a purely neo-classical to a more Romantic style.

Intended Audience

This history course is suitable for anyone interested in the cultural connections of Denmark and its cultural life, those with an interest in the history of ballet and the fine arts or undergraduates studying literature, the fine arts or ballet.

Delivery Style

This history course will be delivered as an interactive workshop with the aide of video extracts and printed handouts with literary and philosophical extracts.

Recommended Reading

  1. H C Andersen, European Witness by Paul Binding, Yale University Press, 2014
  2. Apollo’s Angels, A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans, Random House, 2010
  3. Life Lessons from Kierkegaard by Robert Ferguson, Macmillan, 2013


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion