This book had its beginnings in an invitation by Professor Jeffery Geller asking me to present a couple of lectures at the neighboring university where he teaches (the University of North Carolina at Pembroke) relating to my work on, well, roughly, Kierkegaard. At the time, I was reading Stanley Cavell's new book on film, Pursuits of Happiness, and Martha Nussbaum's major work, The Fragility of Goodness. Taking this opportunity to combine these various interests, I presented two talks: one a Kierkegaardian interpretation of Cavell, the other a Kierkegaardian interpretation of Nussbaum. Later, and after considerable revision, these two lectures found their way into journals, as I cite below, and form the germ, if that is the right word, for this present work.
As this germination proceeded, I came to see the writing of this book as an opportunity to expand my treatment of my favorite of Kierkegaard's works, Either/Or. In my first book, Word and Spirit, I concentrated on Volume I of Either/Or, and on the aesthetic modality of existence (Don Juan and Faust). Out of a sense of wanting completion of some sort, I began to see this project as an opportunity to present my interpretation of Volume II, and, accordingly, the ethical modality. And so, while at this, it also seemed appropriate to take up the religious modality, in its variations, as the alternative to both the aesthetic and the ethical modalities of existence. These efforts turned out to be published papers of their own, one on Judge William and two others on Kierkegaard's conception of faith, all of which form the basis of Part 1 of this book, just as the essays on Cavell and Nussbaum form the bases of Parts 2 and 3 respectively. (See citations below.)
It was not until after I had completed this book, that I came across Stanley Cavell's companion to Pursuits of Happiness, I mean, Contesting Tears. For me, this was unfortunate, since I found in this new book on film more support for my thesis that Cavell and Kierkegaard employ a similar kind of thinking. I have included an extended footnote in Chapter 4, recounting some of the relevant themes in Cavell's treatment of the Hollywood melodramas of the unknown woman. (See footnote 2, Chapter 4)