Kierkegaard's theory and critique of art : its theological significance
The thesis starts by arguing that Kierkegaard's emphasis on the tension between the aesthetic imagination and religious experience deserves attention in the context of contemporary discussions of religion, imagination and art. After discussing some of the main relevant aspects of the literary and philosophical background the thesis presents an exposition of Kierkegaard's own philosophy of art. This provides a theoretical account of aesthetic experience, establishes principles of aesthetic criticism and offers a critique of aesthetic experience. A comprehensive account of the first form of this philosophy of art in the early Papirer is given. Kierkegaard describes art as developing through a sequence of dialectical stages ' until it touches upon themes and questions which require a religious or existential, not an aesthetic, approach. The use to which Kierkegaard put this understanding of art in his mature work is examined with particular reference to his works of aesthetic criticism and to his 'novels'. His work as a critic shows how art approximates to religious and existential concerns, without being able to give adequate expression to them, but it is in his 'novels' that he delineates most finely the boundary between the aesthetic and the religious. His account of this boundary is seen to be closely connected with his concept of angst. Though he emphasizes the difference between the aesthetic and the religious he does allow art a proper autonomy. His stress on the priority of the religious may even be construed as beneficial to art in an age when art is threatened by a pervasive nihilism which only religion can decisively challenge.