Kierkegaard: Resources and Results
Carl Spadoni was Research Collections Librarian at the Mills Library, McMaster University, Hamilton.
Although the archives of the Danish philosopher and religious thinker Siren Kierkegaard are housed at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, a significant collection consisting of approximately 1,000 volumes of Kierkegaardiana was recently acquired by McGill University from the estate of Dr. Gregory Malantschuk. In recognition of the research potential of the Kierkegaard-Malantschuk Collection, a conference was held at McGill on 6-8 June 1980. This anthology, which bears the name of the conference, contains the solicited papers and commentaries.
There are ten papers altogether, the first four related to resources and the last six to results. More specifically, the first three papers deal with the circumstances surrounding McGill’s acquisition of the Kierkegaard-Malantschuk Collection, its current availability and importance for research, the history of Kierkegaard studies at McGill, and the extent of Kierkegaard’s own reading and his library. The fourth paper, even though it is classed by the editor as a resource paper, is an attempt to gain an integrated understanding of the structure of Kierkegaard’s authorship. Rejecting the conventional method of examing an author’s corpus by reference to biography, bibliography, and reflective reconstruction, J.N. CappelØrn maintains, in accordance with Kierkegaard’s own view, that Kienkegaard’s literary production can be best understood by beginning with his conclusions and then working retrospectively through sources such as the Journals and related writings.
The remaining six papers, each of which is followed by a brief commentary, are more speculative pieces. Three of the six appear to be standard essays in the field of Kierkegaard scholarship: Jeremy Walker discusses four assumptions Kierkegaard makes about communication and the implications of these assumptions for the notion of a Christian community; Maurice Carignan draws attention to the importance of the eternal as a synthesizing “third factor” in Kierkegaard’s work; and H.A. Nielson interprets the story of Jesus walking on water in terms of what Kierkegaard has to say about direct and indirect communication.
With respect to the other three papers, the one by Howard Hong is on the difficulties encountered in translating Kierkegaard’s writings. Despite Hongs focus on Kierkegaard’s authorship, the difficulties Hong alludes to can be usefully extrapolated and generalized for similar kinds of translation. The last two papers, one by A.H. Khan and the other by McKinnon, are both unorthodox because they attempt to outline the conceptual topography of Kierkegaard’s thought by quantificational analysis of the machine-readable text of his writing. Whereas Khan’s paper is restricted to the concept of passion in the Concluding Scientific Postscript, McKinnon’s paper ambitiously maps a spatial representation of the entire range of Kierkegaard’s work. By their treatment alone, these two papers are certainly provocative, but it is questionable whether they tell us anything profound about Kierkegaard’s philosophy.
The publication of this anthology is a fitting conclusion to the McGill conference and the acquisition by that university of the Kierkegaard-Malantschuk Collection. Generally speaking, the papers are quite readable and of interest even to those who are not Kierkegaard aficionados. For his efforts in assisting McGill’s acquisition, organizing the conference and editing this anthology, McKinnon is to be congratulated.