Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Kierkegaard and Intentionally Fictional Authors

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Kierkegaard and Intentionally Fictional Authors

Article excerpt

In "A First and Last Declaration," his first sustained account of the pseudonymous authorship for which he was often in his own time (as he continues to be today) given authorial responsibility, Kierkegaard writes: "From the beginning I have seen quite well, and still do, that my personal actuality is a constraint of which the pseudonyms might with pathos-filled self-assertion wish to be quit, the sooner the better, or have made as insignificant as possible, and yet might with ironic courtesy wish, again, to have in their company as the resistance that repels."' The question of authorship in Kierkegaard is on the most fundamental level a question of the ontological reality of the author - and, perhaps just as fundamentally but far less frequently discussed, of the possibility of a relationship between ontologically different authors. In other words, the question of authorship in Kierkegaard is in at least one formulation the question of how real and fictional authors might relate to one another without jeopardizing the authorial independence and coherence of either.

While Kierkegaard claims that "from the beginning" the issue of central concern to Kierkegaardian authorship has been achieving the right balance across this authorial ontological divide, most philosophical considerations of authorship since Kierkegaard have attempted instead to resolve questions of authorial intention as they present themselves in the interpretation of Kierkegaard as both a pseudonymous and a veronymous author. Chiefly, the scholarly literature has concentrated on the proper role of Kierkegaard's intentions in the reading of the pseudonymous books, and this is admittedly an important question, one at the center of much contemporary philosophical discussion of authorship outside of the interpretation of Kierkegaard, as well. To lose sight of what Kierkegaard suggests might be the pseudonyms' tense desire - both to get rid of Kierkegaard, and to have him nearby "as the resistance that repels" - is, however, to lose sight of the particularly Kierkegaardian nature of an inquiry into the nature and structure of the Kierkegaardian authorship. Only by paying attention to the ways in which authorship is uniquely present as a philosophical and practical issue for Kierkegaard can we begin to see how Kierkegaard might complicate and contribute to broader inquiries into the literary phenomenon of authorship, as well.

In the present essay, I seek to address the ongoing debate among philosophers of literature and literary theorists about the proper role for authorial intention in the reading or interpretation of literary and other written works, and the contribution I see Kierkegaard making to this discussion, a contribution that goes as of now largely unacknowledged. Despite the seemingly bifurcated nature of the division in possible perspectives on this issue - there are intentionalists, and there are anti-intentionalists, and Kierkegaard would seem to have to be one or the other - the contemporary discourse has fragmented and multiplied to such a point that one almost requires a map to find one's way. The present work is in no way a complete or final account of the various positions that have been staked out to this point, but I am hopeful it can serve as something of a guide to what are sometimes cumbersome names for relatively accessible notions. With that in mind, the first section of what follows will include a brief introduction to the notions of intentionalism and anti-intentionalism in interpretation, and then attempt briefly to situate Kierkegaard as an author within that discussion. Rather than attempting to discern once and for all what Kierkegaard's own philosophy of authorial intention might have been, I will focus here on Kierkegaard's practice of authorship, and specifically of pseudonymous authorship, as a case for which neither intentionalism nor antiintentionalism, at least as they are presently understood, can account. Within the framework already established in the literature, I propose that we understand Kierkegaardian pseudonymity along the lines of what I call an "intentionally fictional author hypothetical intentionalism. …

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