Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Comparative Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation traces the impact of the life, work, and thought of the nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard on British authors of the mid-twentieth century. Following the translation of Kierkegaard’s writings into English in the mid-1930s, British intellectual life underwent a Kierkegaard boom, but Kierkegaard’s impact lingered long after his initial introduction in the build up to World War II. In sketching Kierkegaard’s importance to a handful of midcentury authors – Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, Flann O’Brien, W. H. Auden, and R. S. Thomas – I show that Kierkegaard remained connected to a sense of “crisis” in British life, even after the abatement of the crisis of war. Tying these various crises to shifts in British life, I show the significance for these authors in pursing a form of literature that I dub the “maieutic,” a term used by Kierkegaard to denote the work of a midwife in indirectly bringing about the birth of truth in individuals. After unpacking “maieutic literature” in the body chapters, I trace its decline in the epilog, showing how the midcentury interest in Kierkegaard as a resource for developing individual readers gave way to a reading of Kierkegaard indebted to therapeutic practice, a use which emphasized self-revelation and acceptance over ethical or religious growth.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Vincent Sherry

Committee Members

Claude Evans, Robert Henke, Bill McKelvy, Abram Van Engen,