SKC Annual Conference 2019

State of the Arts: Kierkegaard. Literature. Theatre. Music.

The Søren Kierkegaard Centre at the University of Copenhagen will devote its Annual Conference for 2019 to investigations and discussions concerning the state of the arts in Kierkegaard’s writings, with special attention to literature, theatre, and music. The title of the conference has a dual meaning inasmuch as it alludes, on the one hand, to the presence of the arts in Kierkegaard’s work and, on the other hand, has the goal of clarifying the present status of Kierkegaard research with respect to the three above-mentioned artistic disciplines. 

We welcome contributions to the conference that will help illuminate Kierkegaard as a re-inventive reader of fairy tales, novels, myths, and biblical texts, as well as contributions that illuminate Kierkegaard as a critical reader of such authors as Hans Christian Andersen, Johan Ludvig Heiberg, and Thomasine Gyllembourg. It is hoped that particular attention will be directed to Kierkegaard’s fascination with—and appropriation of—writers whom he found congenial and who served as literary inspirations, for example Hamann, Lessing, and Schopenhauer, whose subtle style Kierkegaard writes into the wide-reaching intertextuality of his own works. An understanding of the form of Kierkegaard’s discourse also requires the identification of characteristic elements of his literary practice, both in his pseudonymous and in his edifying works, including the relation between metaphor and conceptuality, between direct and indirect communication, and—not least—including the prominent role, that is played by the reader--both within and for the text. Lastly, the conference would like to focus on some of the dominant paradoxes and performative contradictions produced by Kierkegaard’s texts: What is the relation between Kierkegaard’s own aesthetic activity and his critique of the aesthetic? How does he both make use of the perseverating rhetoric that is intended to deceive the reader into the truth—and simultaneously defend the theory of indirect communication?

Kierkegaard’s love of theatre is well-attested, and his sense for dialogue, disguise, and the construction of scenes is notorious. We can follow, like a red thread that running through the whole of his work, Kierkegaard’s commentaries on ancient tragedy, his enduring passion not only for Shakespeare, but also for Holberg and Scribe. The theatre is present in many of Kierkegaard’s works, and he depicts himself as a prompter in relation to his pseudonyms, who appear as dramatic actors on a stage. And further, Kierkegaard’s frequent insistence on the necessity of “stepping forth in character” also conveys clear echoes of the theatre.

As is well known, from among the numerous composers of the day, Kierkegaard chose Mozart, whose opera Don Giovanni he praised lovingly in ”The Immediate Stages of the Erotic”. Kierkegaard also was able to infuse his texts with a special musicality and indeed openly confessed that he could “sit for hours, in love with the sound of language,” like “a flautist who entertains himself with his flute.” It is no coincidence that he encourages his reader to read his texts aloud in order thereby to gain the maximal profit from their sonority and the associated acoustic effects. What does the musicality of the texts mean for our interpretation of the work—and is it in any way possible to reproduce it in our interpretation of Kierkegaard? In other words: What sort of literature is Kierkegaard producing in being simultaneously a kind of poet, a kind of actor, and a kind of musician?

Preliminary programme

We charge a fee of 100 DKK for participation in the conference. Included in this fee is an invitation to the reception on August 14, a sandwich for lunch on August 15 and August 16, and coffee in the breaks on all three days.

If you would like to register for the conference, please do so before 11th of August at: