Christine Hsiu-Chin Chou (Bio)

Interfusion between Narrative and Existence: A Hermeneutic of ‘Guilty or Not Guilty’ in Stages on Life’s Way

According to Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way is “the riches of all” he has written and yet “difficult to understand.” Arguably, the twofold quality of the book, tremendously rich and difficult, significantly lies in the meaningful interweaving of content and form. As “a heightened example” of Kierkegaard’s “indirect communication,” this tri-parted book features Kierkegaard’s art and intent of aesthetic writing in that a dialectical theory of the three spheres of existence is intimated through narrativizing three “stages of life’s way.” Basically in the form of narrative, various life-worlds are created in Stages on Life’s Way for the characters and also readers to deepen their subjective “studies” of the dialectical realms of existence. In terms of this, the narrative form of Kierkegaard’s indirect/maieutic/aesthetic writing, in effect, serves as the very medium of engaging readers and characters alike in the “self-activity,” which is encapsulated by one noted manifesto in Kierkegaard’s existential philosophy — “To exist is art.” Based on the perception of Kierkegaard’s aesthetic text as mediating the union of art and existence, this study attempts to fulfill the task of the Kierkegaardian reader, focused on approaching the most complicated section of Stages on Life’s Way, the third narrative titled “Guilty?’/‘Not Guilty?”, which is a text about a young man who suffers all the tension while striving to live the dialectic “stage” of three existence-spheres. The foremost objective of reading this “story of suffering” is to testify how the textuality of the narrative, with its formal structure of a bipartite diary to convey such a religious individual’s day and night consciousness of the contradictory possibilities of being guilty and not guilty, may facilitate a hermeneutic inter-fusion of the narrative art and the “self-activity” not only of the persona within the text but also of the reader.