Thursday, January 12, 2012

Half-hour Literature

In the preface to his Philosophical Fragments, Søren Kierkegaard announces that the book is "merely a pamphlet". It's his way of simulating Socratic ignorance ("I know that I know nothing") in writing. He says he is not offering a contribution to "the scientific-scholarly endeavor", and that we should please not ask him what his opinion is. Holding an opinion, he says, is counter to his training in "danc[ing] lightly in the service of thought". He thereby renounces "the concordance of joys that go with holding an opinion" (I think we can safely read some irony into that statement). This passage, in particular, struck me when I read it last night:

It is merely a pamphlet and will not become anything more, even if I ... continue it with seventeen others. It has as little chance of becoming anything more as a writer of half-hour pieces has of writing anything else even if he writes folios.

"Half-hour pieces". Blogposts? Another translation talks about "half-hour literature"; the Danish has "halvtimeslæsning", i.e., "half-hour reading", which suggests that it's the time it takes to read the piece, not write it, that is in question. In any case, I've decided to cut down my blogging sessions to 30 minutes. In a sense, I've become too effective at writing one-hour pieces of prose. They come off too composed, too "opinionated" if you will, and certainly too long. I'm going to use my blogging as a training in "dancing lightly" instead.

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