Christian Discourses: The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress

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Princeton University Press, 1997 - Philosophy - 489 pages
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With Christian Discourses, Kierkegaard intended to conclude the signed "second authorship" following Concluding Unscientific Postscript as the end of the pseudonymous writings. Parts One and Three, "The Cares of the Pagans" and "Thoughts That Wound from Behind--for Upbuilding", contain a polemical element and constitute the overture to the collision with the established order of Christendom. The dominant theme of Parts Two and Four, "Joyful Notes in the Strife of Suffering" and "Discourses at the Communion on Fridays", is a reassuring affirmation of the joy and blessedness of the Christian life in a world of adversity and suffering. Written in ordinary language, the work combines simplicity and inwardness with reflection and presents crucial Christian concepts and presuppositions with unusual clarity. Among the discourses are some of Kierkegaard's masterpieces.The first pseudonymous esthetic work, Either/Or, was accompanied by a series of religious discourses. To maintain the dialectical structure of the dual authorship, Kierkegaard wrote an accompanying work to Christian Discourses: an esthetic essay on a foremost Danish actress. To her, it was a "wonderful surprise to read [how] the inspired theoretician manages to express clearly and unambiguously what one has felt without being able to find the words to clarify and illustrate this feeling".

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About the author (1997)

Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Søren Kierkegaard was the son of a wealthy middle-class merchant. He lived all his life on his inheritance, using it to finance his literary career. He studied theology at the University of Copenhagen, completing a master's thesis in 1841 on the topic of irony in Socrates. At about this time, he became engaged to a woman he loved, but he broke the engagement when he decided that God had destined him not to marry. The years 1841 to 1846 were a period of intense literary activity for Kierkegaard, in which he produced his "authorship," a series of writings of varying forms published under a series of fantastic pseudonyms. Parallel to these, he wrote a series of shorter Edifying Discourses, quasi-sermons published under his own name. As he later interpreted it in the posthumously published Point of View for My Work as an Author, the authorship was a systematic attempt to raise the question of what it means to be a Christian. Kierkegaard was persuaded that in his time people took the meaning of the Christian life for granted, allowing all kinds of worldly and pagan ways of thinking and living to pass for Christian. He applied this analysis especially to the speculative philosophy of German idealism. After 1846, Kierkegaard continued to write, publishing most works under his own name. Within Denmark he was isolated and often despised, a man whose writings had little impact in his own day or for a long time afterward. They were translated into German early in the twentieth century and have had an enormous influence since then, on both Christian theology and the existentialist tradition in philosophy.

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