Kierkegaard: A Biography

Alastair Hannay

Published by Cambridge University Press, 2001
ISBN 10: 0521560772 / ISBN 13: 9780521560771
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Synopsis: Written by one of the world's preeminent authorities on Kierkegard, this biography is the first to reveal the delicate imbrication of Kierkegard's life and thought. To grasp the importance and influence of Kierkegaard's thought far beyond his native Denmark, it is necessary to trace the many factors that led this gifted but (according to his headmaster) 'exceedingly childish youth' to grapple with traditional philosophical problems and religious themes in a way that later generations would recognize as amounting to a philosophical revolution. Although Kierkegaard's works are widely tapped and cited they are seldom placed in context. Nor is due attention placed to their chronology. However, perhaps more than the work of any other contributor to the Western philosophical tradition, these writings are so closely meshed with the background and details of the author's life that knowledge of this is indispensible to their content. Alastair Hannay solves these problems by following the chronological sequence of events and focusing on the formative stages of his career from the success of his first, pseudonymous work ^Either/Or through to The Sickness Unto Death and Practice in Christianity. This book offers a powerful narrative account which will be of particular interest to philosophers, literary theorists, intellectual historians, and scholars of religious studies as well as any non-specialist looking for an authoritative guide to the life and work of one of the most original and fascinating figures in Western philosophy. Alastair Hannay is Professor Emeritus in the department of philosophy at the University of Oslo. He is the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion of Kierkegaard (1998) and is also translator of several works by Kierkegaard in Penguin Classics.

Review: Kierkegaard: A Biography traces the evolution of a character who himself was made up of many characters of his own creation. Søren Kierkegaard's writings, published under various pseudonyms, were made in response to "collisions" with significant individuals (including his father, his brother, a fiancé whom he rejected, and a prominent Danish bishop). The development of these pseudonymous characters reflect Kierkegaard's growing sense of self, and his discovery of that self as being essentially religious. With considerable mastery of the political, philosophical, and theological conflicts of 19th century Europe, Alastair Hannay's biography also serves as an excellent introduction to Kierkegaard's philosophy and faith. From sentence to sentence, the book is full of small pleasures, particularly Hannay's judiciously employed, humanizing vernacular phrases. (As a young man, "Søren," like so many people, "blamed his father for messing up his life.") And like his subject, Hannay is a shrewd observer of the often-misleading relationship between appearance and reality. For instance, he suggests that "it does seem plausible to suppose that a main motivation behind the huge effort that writers put into their poetic products stems often from a sense of lacking in themselves the very substance that their works appear to convey." --Michael Joseph Gross

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Title: Kierkegaard: A Biography
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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