Søren Kierkegaard and French Literature: Eight Comparative Studies

Søren Kierkegaard and French Literature: Eight Comparative Studies

Søren Kierkegaard and French Literature: Eight Comparative Studies

Søren Kierkegaard and French Literature: Eight Comparative Studies

Excerpt

Compared with the profound influence exerted upon Søren Kierkegaard by his contact with German Romanticism, French literature may seem at first sight to have left only superficial traces upon his life and work, but a close study of his writings shows that his knowledge of French culture was wider than is often supposed and his references to French writers are frequent enough to merit separate examination. Although the starting-point of these comparative studies will be, with two important exceptions, Kierkegaard's specific reactions to French authors, it should perhaps be made clear at once that they are not concerned primarily with investigating problems of 'influence'; their aim, for the most part, is to determine Kierkegaard's fundamental attitude towards the questions raised rather than to examine the problem of any permanent influence they may have had upon his intellectual and religious development. By comparing two different views of a single cultural problem, I hope to bring out certain of its deeper implications more clearly than would have been possible through the examination of one author in isolation.

Kierkegaard's reflections will sometimes seem to be remote from the meaning of the original text, but his reading was apt to be closely related to his own personal needs and preoccupations, the results being almost always worth while from the point of view of the intrinsic interest of the subjects discussed, even if they do not accord with the interpretation of modern historical scholarship. In any case, the complex and elusive nature of Kierkegaard's work inevitably encourages the pursuit of any type of inquiry which will help to clarify some of its subtler aspects. The present series of studies is therefore intended to illuminate one minor facet of a much larger and more complicated subject.

These essays will not be found to follow any rigid uniformity of method in their treatment of the various themes: in view of the wide range of topics discussed, it seemed more appropriate to let each one determine the particular way in which it was to be approached. Much obviously depends on the particular moment of his career at which Kierkegaard became acquainted with the author concerned. Although previous critics, for example, have established many striking parallels . . .

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