Divine Madness and the Absurd Paradox: Ibsen's Peer Gynt and the Philosophy of Kierkegaard

Divine Madness and the Absurd Paradox: Ibsen's Peer Gynt and the Philosophy of Kierkegaard

Divine Madness and the Absurd Paradox: Ibsen's Peer Gynt and the Philosophy of Kierkegaard

Divine Madness and the Absurd Paradox: Ibsen's Peer Gynt and the Philosophy of Kierkegaard

Synopsis

This book is a comprehensive study of Peer Gynt, a drama that forms the foundation of not only the entire Ibsen canon, but also of modern drama as a whole. It provides scene-by-scene commentary on the drama, showing how the literature and ideas of the drama resemble, and sometimes duplicate, the literature and philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard. The revelation of Kierkegaard's influence on Ibsen allows the contemporary reader to experience the essence of the drama in the context in which it made its first literary appearance.

Excerpt

The present study originated in an altogether different form. As a graduate student in stage directing, I was reintroduced to Ibsen's confusing but compelling classic when a fellow student handed me the late Alan Fletcher's beautiful, modern, but unpublished translation of Peer Gynt (first produced in 1976 at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, California), which I subsequently directed at the University of Iowa in 1979. I first encountered Søren Kierkegaard while I was engaged in the preliminary research for that production. During that research, I quickly discovered that among scholars, Kierkegaard is regarded as a minimal but nonetheless definite force within Peer Gynt. After further comparative reading, it became apparent to me that the Kierkegaardian influence was significant even though nowhere did there appear an equally significant critical assessment of that influence. For me to have undertaken such an involved study at that time-when it seemed to all only remotely important to the preparation of my production-was impossible. Therefore, the first version of this commentary was little more than a note in the production concept statement.

After some months, the production successfully in the past, this study was begun. A basic investigation immediately indicated the extent to which Kierkegaard's writings actually did influence the dramaturgical elements of Peer Gynt, an influence that went far deeper than even the most reliable of Ibsen scholars had intimated. Thus this research has continued off and on for the past ten years, resulting in a variety of manuscripts of varying length. Each of these versions, however, assumed a particular emphasis: the ending of the drama. For, the really perplexing question about Peer Gynt is how the ending of the drama functions as a resolution to the whole. Perhaps no . . .

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