A Kierkegaardian phenomenology of authorship

Eleanor Dawn Helms, Fordham University


My dissertation draws on the phenomenological tradition to develop a theory of authorship that emphasizes the unity of the work and the reader's experience of its continuity. I show moreover that Søren Kierkegaard anticipates the intentional structure for authorship later set forward by phenomenologists. I argue that Kierkegaard is more productively read as a kind of (proto-)phenomenologist rather than as a forerunner of post-structuralism or deconstruction, as is sometimes claimed. Like deconstruction, on the other hand, Kierkegaard recognizes the tension between ideality and reality that motivates Derrida's critiques of Husserl.^ Drawing on resources from Wolfgang Iser and Mikel Dufrenne as well as the foundational work of Edmund Husserl and Roman Ingarden, I describe the literary work as presenting a world, which is composed not just of its setting but of a plurality of perspectives. The literary world is unified by an implicit "point of convergence" that is not itself represented. In the world of the work, the reader encounters the author indirectly as the original point of view from which the various details and perspectives constitute a world. My phenomenological view of authorship thus preserves a space for authorial presence without positing that the author is the final arbiter of the work's meaning.^ Kierkegaard affirms the ambiguities of language and the tension between the ideal of pure fiction and the contingency of reality. Nevertheless, he also insists on something like the phenomenological point of convergence and its correlation to the reader's vantage point, which Kierkegaard calls a "point of view" [Synspunket] and associates with the author's own "life-view" [Livs-anskuelse]. I show the relevance of Kierkegaard's theory of authorship for his understanding of selfhood, where the self is understood to inhabit a world of interests and relevance. The tension between thought and existence faced by an existing person has its analogy within the world of the work in the way its author enacts a synthesis between form and content that will support (quasi-) belief in the world of the work.^

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Recommended Citation

Eleanor Dawn Helms, "A Kierkegaardian phenomenology of authorship" (January 1, 2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3466703.