The Original Age of Anxiety

Essays on Kierkegaard and His Contemporaries


Why was anxiety such a major issue for Søren Kierkegaard and his contemporaries? This book revisits the “original” age of anxiety, the time and place where Kierkegaard’s ground-breaking thoughts on anxiety were formed. The pseudonym used by Kierkegaard in The Concept of Anxiety (1844), Vigilius Haufniensis, is Latin for “the watchman of Copenhagen.” A guiding question is what the vigilant Haufniensis might have observed in his city—and especially in the literary culture of his time and day? Exploring freedom in many forms, Kierkegaard and his contemporaries found combinations of fear and desire that have later been considered symptomatic of modernity.

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Lasse Horne Kjældgaard, Dr.Phil. and Ph.D., is Professor of Danish Literature at the University of Southern Denmark and Director of the Hans Christian Andersen Centre. He has published numerous monographs and articles on Danish literary and cultural history.


1Introduction The Dizziness of Freedom
 1 There is Nothing to Be Afraid of

 2 The Ascendance of Anxiety

 3 The Golden Age

 4 Departures

 5 The Annihilation of Eternity

2The Political Turn of the Public Sphere
 1 Young Denmark?

 2 The Critique of Aestheticization
 2.1 The State of Art

 3 Politics versus Aesthetics

 4 The Politicization of the Press

 5 The Directions and Distractions of the Age

 6 The Resurgence of Poetry

 7 A New Waker

 8 An Artist among Rebels?

3The Poetics of Paralysis The Pregnant Moment of Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling
 1 The Limits of Painting and Poetry

 2 The Pregnant Moment of Medea

 3 Romeo and Juliet and the End of Narrative Desire

 4 Going Further or Remaining Standing

 5 Abraham’s Tableau and the State of Indecision

 6 Ethics and the Question of What Could Have Happened

 7 Fear and Pity and Trembling

4Paratextualism in Kierkegaard’s Prefaces and Contemporary Literary Culture
 1 Hegelian Reflections

 2 Promises and Performances

 3 Paratextualism

 4 Simulated Motions

5The Immortality of the Soul and the Death (and Resurrection) of Art in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript
 1 The Immortality of the Soul and the Death of Art

 2 Art as an Anticipation of the Afterlife

 3 The Most Pathos-filled Issue of All

6The Emancipation of Images The Optical Unconscious of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Shadow”
 1 The Scholar and the Shadow

 2 Perversions

 3 The Semiotics of the Shadow

 4 Phantasmagoria

 5 The Emancipation of Images

 6 The Semantics of Image and Self

7Epilogue The Modernity of the Late Golden Age



The Original Age of Anxiety is first and foremost a scholarly book that addresses scholars as well as graduate and undergraduate students in the fields of Western Philosophy, Existentialism, History of Ideas, Scandinavian studies, Aesthetics, and Theology.