Relationality and difference

Kierkegaard on irony and longing

  • Jørgen Veisland University of Gdansk, Poland
Keywords: Socratic irony, Christian Eros, difference, dialogue, existential becoming


Søren Kierkegaard's work The Concept of Irony is an ambivalent and subtle analysis of irony with special reference to Socrates. Kierkegaard demonstrates how irony paradoxically makes its own method into an object of irony, a process culminating in a transgression of dialectics resulting in pure negativity. Moreover, irony is only a tool whereby the philosopher approximates the Absolute through indirect communication and explores the limits of language by contrasting it with music. The ultimate goal of this speculative, rhetorical procedure is to open up the aesthetic dimension to the ethico­religious dimension. This involves an emancipation of subjectivity entailing the subject's serious confrontation with existence as an ethically disposed interest, inter­esse, where the individual is in constant dialogue with her/himself. The dialogue in the individual self is propelled by longing, which may be conceived as an intensified mental force containing an erotic and religious core and manifesting the ever­present, immanent difference between self and other. That difference is emblematic of a psychological, moral and epistemological problematic indicating indeterminacy and relationality, the pivots of individual becoming.

Author Biography

Jørgen Veisland, University of Gdansk, Poland

Jørgen Steen Veisland is associate professor of Scandinavian, American and Comparative Literature at the University of Gdansk, Poland, where he has been employed since 1992. Previous appointments include The International People's College, Denmark; The University of Wisconsin-Madison; The University of California­Berkeley, and Fudan University, Shanghai. He is a member of The International Association for Scandinavian Studies and The International Association for Ethical Literary Criticism. He is the author of numerous articles on Scandinavian and American literature and of several books, a.o. Kierkegaard and the Dialectics of Modernism; Mimesis and Metamorphosis: The Self in Contemporary American Fiction; Drama and Repetition: Time in Selected Plays by Henrik Ibsen, Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett; Depression and Utopia: A Study of Selected Works by John Steinbeck; The Outcast: Twisting the Plot in Six English Novels, and Imagism in Laus Strandby Nielsen's Poetry.


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