SKC Project Seminar: Kristian Bunkenborg

Kristian Bunkenborg

Kierkegaard and the Figures of Solitude

Subjectivity is the qualifying characteristic of modernity in Hegel’s lectures on aesthetics. Individualism is the first of the three malaises of modernity in Charles Taylor’s short diagnosis of his contemporary society. The question of solitude, of loneliness and isolation looms implicitly or it is spelled out explicitly in many of the major works of fiction in modernity. Kierkegaard is also at odds to portray humanity in its despairing condition as a self defined and confined in its alienation from the other as the neighbor and the Other as the divine. The particularity of Kierkegaard’s depiction of solitude is that he considers the modern malaise through fictional and biblical portrayals of isolation, and that these figures are not limited to modernity. In this view, the figures of solitude are not only representative of modernity, but are expressions of a universal aspect of the human condition as incurably lonely.

The aim of the presentation is to test the ground for the possibility of engaging with solitude through a Kierkegaardian anthropology and through his method of including psychological analyses of fictional characters into the development of his argument. Towards this end, I will introduce a motley crew of individuals ranging from the biblical Abraham and the ancient Antigone,  going over the cabin boy Pip from Moby Dick and the sad expression on the face of Katinka Bay from Herman Bang’s Ved Vejen, and finally arriving in a near present image of solitude from David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System, where the obese business magnate, Bombardini, has decided to solve the problem of solitude by consuming the entire universe.