Kierkegaard: A Biography / Edition 1

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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.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] welcome addition...Hannay gives a penetrating analysis of Kierkegaard's authorship...[T]here is much to be celebrated in this work. This book is highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the life or works of Kierkegaard. Even the Kierkegaard scholar will undoubtedly learn something new from reading Hannay's fine book." Noel S. Adams, Marquette University, Review of Metaphysics

"Hannay writes as a seasoned philosopher and gifted translator, offering ample and even-handed expositions of Kierkegaard's published works and their immediate polemical contexts, and refusing to collapse their liveliness into a sorry bundle of suffering and self-pity....this prudent, tactful and canny new life is exactly what Kierkegaard needed." Times Literary Supplement

"Alastair Hannay has devoted enormous efforts to familiarize himself with what was going on in Denmark in Kierkegaard's time, and with the details of the controversies in which he embroiled himself. The result is a biography that gives us a much clearer understanding of many of Kierkegaard's writings, and is indispensible for anyone trying to follow the twists and turns of his thought." Richard Rorty, author of Contingency, Irony & Solidarity

"...a superb biography of a man whose life has often been misunderstood...The result is perhaps the best picture yet of Kierkegaard and his place in Western philosophical thought...this book should find its way into every academic and large public library." Library Journal

"Hannay advances an interpretive thesis that unties Kierkegaard's life with his work, thereby giving both a new integrity and coherence...remarkable thoroughness and plausibility...Compelling reading for anyone with an interest in modern philosophy." Booklist

"...a lucid and concientiously written book that pays dazzling attention to the fine details." Harper's

"[A] thorough intellectual biography..." The New Republic

"Hannay advances an interpetive thesis that unties Kierkgaard's life with his work, thereby giving both a new integrity and coherence....remarkable thoroughness and plausibility....Compelling reading for anyone with an interest in modern philosophy." Booklist

..."a lucid and conscientiously written book that pays dazzling attention to the fine details." Guy Davenport Harper's Magazine Aug. 2001

[A] thorough intellectual biography..." New Republic

Kirkus Reviews
An intellectual biography of Denmark's second-most famous melancholic. Hannay (Philosophy/Univ. of Oslo) has produced several works on Kierkegaard, one of the 19th century's most iconoclastic thinkers, and he has translated many of Kierkegaard's books into English. Here he applies his formidable knowledge of the philosopher's work to the task of grounding it in the minutiae of the man's life. From the outset Hannay admits that many will dispute the relevance of his project, and those who believe that the story of an author's life sheds no light on the meaning of his works will find little to savor here. Those of other theoretical persuasions will be richly rewarded, however. Moving chronologically through Kierkegaard's life with somewhat breathtaking familiarity, the author deftly isolates the influences that specific events had on his thinking. Most interestingly, the Danish-speaking Hannay is able to situate Kierkegaard in his Copenhagen milieu, revealing local, often petty battles where others have seen earthshaking disputes with Great European Thinkers. The problem with Hannay's approach, however, is that in the end not terribly much happened to Kierkegaard. Apart from the well-known jilting of his fiancee (which effectively began his writing career) and the self-immolating attack on the church (which ended it), Kierkegaard's adult life was surprisingly uneventful. Twenty years of studying German philosophers and writing like a fiend produced some fascinating books, but it did not make for riveting biography. Furthermore, the breadth of Hannay's knowledge occasionally pushes him towards the hagiographic; he tends to find a rationale for every utterance of Kierkegaard's, no matterhow small or strange, despite the strong possibility that Kierkegaard (with his love of pseudonyms and propensity for depression) may have been a bit unstable. For those with the patience and willingness to work their way through, though, a remarkably nuanced, delicately drawn picture of Kierkegaard's thought eventually emerges here. Kierkegaard's great fear was that later thinkers would cram his life's work into a two-paragraph precis; Hannay has gone to great lengths to prevent that from ever happening.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521531818
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 522
  • Sales rank: 836,423
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; 1. From street to salon: first blood; 2. The matter with Søren; 3. A Faustian phase; 4. The wild geese fly; 5. The dead and the living: debut; 6. Serious about irony: the dissertation; 7. The breach and Berlin: either/or; 8. Faith and tragic heroism; 9. More to being; 10. Notabene's meditation; 11. Completing the stages; 12. Concluding business; 13. Reviewing the age; 14. Refashioning the exterior; 15. Works of love; 16. Defining the deed; 17. Mischievous martyr; 18. 'Poor Kierkegaard; Bibliography.
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