John D. Mullen (essay date spring 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mullen, John D. “Between the Aesthetic and the Ethical: Kierkegaard's Either/Or.Philosophy Today 23, no. 1/4 (spring 1979): 84-94.

[In the following essay, Mullen questions the usual reading of Either/Or that positions the aesthetic and the ethical as two progressive stages of life.]


In the following paper I would like to call into question what seems to be the accepted way of reading S. Kierkegaard's Either/Or. ([4]) This interpretation can be developed in the following way. First, Either/Or depicts the first two stages of a journey of the spirit similar in logical structure to Hegel's...

(The entire section is 5502 words.)

John Vignaux Smyth (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Smyth, John Vignaux. “Erotic Aesthetics.” In A Question of Eros: Irony in Sterne, Kierkegaard, and Barthes, pp. 223-59. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Smyth explores Kierkegaard's concept of irony as well as his inclusion of philosophy and science within the realm of aesthetics.]

The aesthetic is always hidden; insofar as it expresses itself it is coquettish.

Søren Kierkegaard

The basic error of sophistic aesthetics is to consider beauty merely as something given, as a psychological phenomenon.


(The entire section is 29894 words.)

Peter J. Mehl (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mehl, Peter J. “Moral Virtue, Mental Health, and Happiness: The Moral Psychology of Kierkegaard's Judge William.” In International Kierkegaard Commentary: Either/Or, Part II, edited by Robert L. Perkins, pp. 155-82. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Mehl examines the moral personality of Judge William within the context of recent writings on the relationship between psychology and ethics, particularly invoking the work of Owen Flanagan.]


Philosophical discussions about relationships between ethics and psychology are undergoing something of a revival. Not only is there considerable...

(The entire section is 10954 words.)

George Pattison (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pattison, George. “The Initial Reception of Either/Or.” In International Kierkegaard Commentary: Either/Or, Part II, edited by Robert L. Perkins, pp. 291-305. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Pattison discusses the contemporary reception of Either/Or, suggesting that although some readers were apparently overwhelmed by its complexity, others produced thoughtful, relevant commentary on the work.]

Either/Or was made available to the Danish reading public on 20 February 1843 by C. A. Reitzel, University bookseller and publisher in Copenhagen, at a cost of four dollars, four marks and eight shillings, per...

(The entire section is 5903 words.)

Edward F. Mooney (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mooney, Edward F. “Self-Choice or Self-Reception: Judge Wilhelm's Admonition.” In Selves in Discord and Resolve: Kierkegaard's Moral-Religious Psychology from Either/Or to Sickness Unto Death, pp. 11-26. New York: Routledge, 1996.

[In the following excerpt, Mooney discusses the concepts of autonomy, rights, and responsibilities inherent within Judge Wilhelm's advice to “A” that he accept himself.]

The I chooses itself, or more correctly, it accepts itself.

What is crucial is not so much deliberation as the baptism of choice by which it is assumed into the ethical.


(The entire section is 9627 words.)

Wanda Warren Berry (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Berry, Wanda Warren. “The Heterosexual Imagination and Aesthetic Existence in Kierkegaard's Either/Or, Part I.” In Feminist Interpretations of Søren Kierkegaard, edited by Céline Léon and Sylvia Walsh, pp. 25-49. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.

[In the following essay, Berry examines Either/Or within the context of modern concepts of sexual identity and sexual orientation.]

Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authorship is populated with “fictive lover figures” who Kresten Nordentoft says share the concept of erotic love which is formulated in the essay on “The Immediate Erotic Stages” in Either/Or, 1....

(The entire section is 10209 words.)

Céline Léon (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Léon, Céline. “(A) Woman's Place within the Ethical.” In Feminist Interpretations of Søren Kierkegaard, edited by Céline Léon and Sylvia Walsh, pp. 103-30. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997

[In the following essay, Léon discusses Judge William's paradoxically negative views on women and women's liberation.]

Unlike an aesthete who oscillates between envy and commiseration, Judge William (B), in the second volume of Either/Or (1843) and in Stages on Life's Way (1845), praises women and declares himself against altering them for self-enjoyment or self-aggrandizement. In effect, not only does Kierkegaard's...

(The entire section is 12217 words.)

Clayton Koelb (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Koelb, Clayton. “Wrestling with Proteus: Irony in Kierkegaard's Either/Or.” In Narrative Ironies, edited by A. Prier and Gerald Gillespie, pp. 21-31. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997.

[In the following essay, Koelb explores Kierkegaard's use of irony in Either/Or, particularly in his discussion of Eugène Scribe's The First Love.]

The love of recollection is the only happy love, says an author who, so far as I am acquainted with him, is sometimes rather deceitful.

Søren Kierkegaard

Irony prefers oblique refraction. It says not so much the opposite to...

(The entire section is 4786 words.)

Marc Katz (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Katz, Marc. “Confessions of an Anti-Poet: Kierkegaard's Either/Or and the German Romantics.” In Cultural Interactions in the Romantic Age: Critical Essays in Comparative Literature, edited by Gregory Maertz, pp. 227-45. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Katz discusses Kierkegaard's sense of his own marginality in relation to German Romanticism.]

What seems less the picture of a living person than a silhouette? And yet, how much it tells us!

[Was kann weniger Bild eines ganz lebendigen Menschen seyn, als ein Schattenriß? Und wie viel...

(The entire section is 8183 words.)