The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) is often credited as the forefather of twentieth-century existential philosophy. His authorship can be roughly divided in two, into pseudonymous philosophical works, and signed religious discourses. When I began my research into Kierkegaard’s contemporary (to him) readership, I was told by a number of senior scholars in the field that Kierkegaard’s women contemporaries only read the religious discourses, not the pseudonymous books. In order to test this and other assumptions about Kierkegaard’s readers, I looked into the copies of as many first and contemporaneous second editions as I could find in libraries in the United States and Denmark, in order to determine the copies’ provenance (i.e., previous ownership), either by a signature, dedication, or book plate. Sure enough, through this process, I found that a number of Kierkegaard’s women contemporaries were in fact reading his pseudonymous books. In this lecture, I will discuss the implications of these findings both for how we understand the role of women in the Danish Golden Age, and for how we approach Kierkegaard today. I will also share what I have learned about some of these women readers and their experiences with the first fruits of existential philosophy.
Webinar organized with the EPICUR-and EUCOR-Universities of Amsterdam Basel, Freiburg, and Poznan.
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