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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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.
Chair and Committee
Claude Evans, Robert Henke, Bill McKelvy, Abram Van Engen,
Gelzer-Govatos, Asher, "From the Papers of One Still Living: Kierkegaard and British Literature, 1932-1995" (2020). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2190.
Available for download on Sunday, April 17, 2022