Blake, Kierkegaard, and the Spectre of dialectic

Clark, Lorraine Joan, Department of English, University of Virginia
Hirsch, Eric, Department of English, University of Virginia
Cantor, Paul, E0:AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

Irony, as both a philosophical and aesthetic concept, has long been recognized by critics as somehow fundamental to Romantic patterns of thought. But critics have limited themselves (and the poets they seek to interpret) to two forms of Romantic dialectics: Hegelian mediation and Schlegelian Romantic irony. Neither pattern illuminates the more profound concept of irony underlying the Romantic enterprise of secularization. Mediation is too theologically optimistic, Romantic irony too nihilistic, to do justice to the passionate struggles of thought between theology and nihilism which run throughout Romanticism. My thesis argues that William Blake at the beginning of the age and Soren Kierkegaard at its end exemplify with particularly fierce clarity this stubbornly ironic vision, and that Kierkegaard defines a third form of dialectic more true to its struggles: Socratic irony. His "either/ or," a deliberate reaction against Hegel's "both-and" and Schlegel's oscillation of contraries, illuminates the concept of irony in which he and Blake saw the true passion of Romanticism.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Blake, William -- 1757-1827, Kierkegaard, S√∏ren -- 1813-1855, Irony, Romanticism
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