Living Poetically

Kierkegaard's Existential Aesthetics

By (author) Sylvia Walsh

Paperback - £33.95

Publication date:

15 September 1994

Length of book:

312 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271026633

Living Poetically is the first book to focus primarily on Kierkegaard's existential aesthetics as opposed to traditional aesthetic features of his writings such as the use of pseudonyms, literary techniques and figures, and literary criticism. Living Poetically traces the development of the concept of the poetic in Kierkegaard's writings as that concept is worked out in an ethical-religious perspective in contrast to the aesthetics of early German romanticism and Hegelian idealism. Sylvia Walsh seeks to elucidate what it means, in Kierkegaard's view, to be an authentic poet in the form of a poetic writer and to clarify his own role as a Christian poet and writer as he understood it. Walsh shows that, in spite of strong criticisms made of the poetic in some of his writings, Kierkegaard maintained a fundamentally positive understanding of the poetic as an essential ingredient in ethical and religious forms of life. Walsh thus reclaims Kierkegaard as a poetic thinker and writer from those who would interpret him as an ironic practitioner of an aestheticism devoid of and detached from the ethical-religious as well as from those who view him as rejecting the poetic and aesthetic on ethical or religious grounds.

Viewing contemporary postmodern feminism and deconstruction as advocating a romantic mode of living poetically, Walsh concludes with a feminist reading of Kierkegaard that affirms both individuality and relatedness, commonalities and differences between the self and others, men and women, for the fashioning of an authentic mode of living poetically in the present age.

Living Poetically addresses the debate over Kierkegaard and aesthetics with impressive authority. Walsh demonstrates that contemporary postmodern efforts to idealize the aesthetic in abstraction from the ethical and the religious are no more responsible than older voices that viewed the aesthetic with little more than suspicion. She argues that Kierkegaard embraces all three, for life is really complete only when paradoxical faith and ethical freedom are both infused with poetic richness.”

—Stephen Dunning, University of Pennsylvania