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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Kierkegaard's work of love
by Stapp, Mark, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2009, 285; 3362459
Abstract (Summary)

Works of Love presents itself to the reader as an example of direct communication from Soren Kierkegaard. This sedate appearance camouflages a surprising and ambitious project from a writer operating at the peak of his stylistic abilities. No simple sermon, Works of Love nestles discourses within one another like Russian dolls. Works of Love is at once a private prayer to God, a personal diary, an exhortation to the individual reader, and, most importantly, a theatrical event in which Kierkegaard removes the boundary between himself and his readers to communicate a view of love that cannot be written, but only performed.

This dissertation challenges the conventional scholarly literature with regard to Works of Love and, by implication, Kierkegaard's other religious texts. The argument weaves through Kierkegaard's understanding of the nature and function of love in human existence, and uncovers how Works of Love draws inspiration from two underappreciated texts in his oeuvre: the lecture series on communication in Kierkegaard's journals and The Crisis and Crisis in the Life of an Actress. The argument summarizes facets of Kierkegaard's biography that are critical to understanding his mission in Works of Love, 2 and proposes that Kierkegaard's public reputation is such that, by the time he authors Works of Love, "Søren Kierkegaard" functions as a pseudonym.

Kierkegaard implicitly acknowledges that he intends Works of Love to be a work of love. This dissertation investigates the link between love and the phenomenon of a pure gift to show how Kierkegaard meets his challenge. The strange logic and paradoxical demands of a pure gift and, by extension, love, require that the gift disguise its own origin and purpose. This study examines how Works of Love complicates the identity of its author, audience, and purpose in order for the text to function as a gift. It ultimately concludes that Kierkegaard fails (unavoidably) to describe love directly, but that Works of Love succeeds in opening the possibility for love to emerge in and through the text itself.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tracy, David
School: The University of Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Theology
Keywords: Communication, Gift, Kierkegaard, Soren, Love, Performative text, Works of love
Publication Number: 3362459
ISBN: 978-1-109-21387-4
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