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Kierkegaard conference draws next generation of scholars

While the study of the philosophical writings of Søren Kierkegaard may have been a limited field of interest at one time, this is no longer the case. “The conference was twice as big as previous conferences,” said Cynthia Lund, the assistant curator and special collections librarian of the Kierkegaard library. “There was a large group of younger scholars,” she said. “There is a shift of generations happening.”
From June 27 to July 1, St. Olaf College hosted the Sixth International Kierkegaard Conference. The conference, titled “Why Kierkegaard Still Matters,” drew more than 160 scholars worldwide, which is believed to be the largest gathering of Kierkegaard scholars ever.
Given the shift of generations, it is no surprise the conference drew in a number of younger scholars, but there were also experienced Kierkegaard scholars in attendance.

The changing face of Kierkegaard scholarship

Conference attendees participated in a Howard Hong remembrance session in the Viking Theater. Hong, in whose honor the St. Olaf Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library is named, died this spring at the age of 97. “It was touching really,” Lund said. “Scholars, both younger and older, expressed how Hong had helped them one way or another.”
The generation shift in Kierkegaard studies is also creating a more interdisciplinary effort. The conference reflected this dimension as well. In the session titled “Kierkegaard Aktør,” Claus Damgaard led an interactive event expressing Kierkegaard’s ideas physically. “We were worried people might not go to that session, but it was well-attended,” Lund said.

“St. Olaf is a gathering place [where Kierkegaard] scholars look forward to seeing one another.”

The goals of the conference include creating fellowship among Kierkegaard scholars and advancing the study of Kierkegaard. By Lund’s estimates the conference has achieved these two broad goals.
These conferences, hosted by the library, create a way for Kierkegaard scholars to reunite. “St. Olaf is a gathering place scholars look forward to seeing one another at, rather than some other place,” Lund said.
Additionally the conference hosted the session “Seminario Iberoamericano” each evening of the conference. The Seminario Iberoamericano is an opportunity for scholars who are interested in translating Kierkegaard into Spanish and Portuguese to gather.

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