Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora. Ph.D.


Modernism, faith, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Woolf, Joyce


The central issue in the works of Danish philosopher and religious thinker Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) takes the form of a question: "What does it mean to become a Christian?" However, Kierkegaard's ideas exerted influence well beyond Christian circles and have been important to many notable philosophical and literary figures, some of whom chose not to concern themselves primarily with this question (Sartre, Camus, Heidegger, Buber), and some of whom did choose to concern themselves primarily with this question (Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Berdyaev, Marcel). Even though Kierkegaard died in relative obscurity, thanks to posthumous translation of his works into German and to those translations then being embraced by thinkers as diverse as the atheist Sartre and the Hasidic rabbi Martin Buber, Kierkegaard's writings evolved into a great shaping force in twentieth century philosophy, theology, and literature.

Extending slightly Kierkegaard's influence, the present study draws upon his concept of irony as indirect communication and upon his concept of the three spheres of existence to engage in close readings of four masterpieces of literature: The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Mrs. Dalloway, and Ulysses. The four close readings then become a point-of-departure for considering how Kierkegaard's concept of irony---more specifically, its three spheres of existence--might apply to the world of present-day scholarship and pedagogy. The close readings of the four novels thus serve to establish the context for the final chapter, which considers how Kierkegaard's concept of the three spheres of existence might apply to a broader understanding of scholarship and pedagogy.

In addition to offering literary analysis (conventional close readings) of the four novels, the present study also serves as a primer to the theology of Kierkegaard in that the close readings of the novels illustrate various aspects of what Kierkegaard believed to be the three spheres of existence. The study also forwards the action of scholarship and pedagogy by inviting the reader to consider how the three spheres of existence might apply to contemporary scholarship and pedagogy.