Friday, May 10, 2013

Kierkegaard's Kin?

Last Sunday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of one my all-time favorite guys, Soren Kierkegaard.  Considering the incalculable influence he has had on modern thought, it is surprising that scarcely a word about his bicentenary appeared in the press.  Thinkers as diverse as Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and Heidegger were influenced by him, as were many modern and post-modern fiction writers.  Indeed, a work such as Wise Blood would have been impossible without Kierkegaard.  Though Flannery O'Connor disavowed any literary kinship to the great Dane, she did read him.  In fact, in a letter to Betty Hester (see The Habit of Being p. 273) it can be inferred that she even found Fear and Trembling intellectually stimulating.  While O'Connor may have wanted her audience to think that Thomas Aquinas was her literary and spiritual north star, the truth of the matter is others such as Kierkegaard were more important in her development as an artist.  It is curious how Flannery could deny his influence given the fact that she loved Dostoevsky, a writer whose novels are literary counterparts to the works of the philosopher, theologian, mystic (it's so hard to put a label on him!) from Copenhagen.  At the very least, both writers shared a common fate of not being understood in their lifetimes.  Flannery once quipped that she could wait a hundred years to be understood, and while she may not have had to wait that long, poor Kierkegaard did. 
- Mark

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