Love is in the air on Kierkegaard's birthday – University of Copenhagen

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02 May 2013

Love is in the air on Kierkegaard's birthday

NATIONAL PHILOSOPHER

What do a 170-year-old engagement ring, the key to a house that no longer exists and a chipped coffee cup have in common? All three can be used to better understand Søren Kierkegaard’s thinking about the nature of love. All three items are part of a new exhibit presenting some of the latest research into the life of Denmark’s greatest philosopher. The exhibit, organised by the Museum of Copenhagen in collaboration with the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, opens on 5 May, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Kierkegaard’s birth.

 "Even though Kierkegaard was born 200 years ago, his thinking still has a lot to say to us today about the nature of love. Love is something that we can go on discussing forever, and Kierkegaard’s ideas about the topic are still highly relevant," says Pia Søltoft, director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre.

Find love (and Kierkegaard) at the Museum of Copenhagen

Love was something Kierkegaard took up in all of his works.

 "He saw love as an urge to give and show affection. Love is instilled in us by God and expressed in our relationships with other people. Love assumes different forms: the physical love between lovers, the bond between parents and their children or between friends, and the Christian love that exists in the respect for one’s self and for others," says Joakim Garff, associate professor at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre.

The exhibit contains a number of objects from Kierkegaard’s life that symbolise the various forms of love: the key to his boyhood home, for example, or the coffee cups he used when entertaining guests, and finally the engagement ring he gave to Regine Olsen. All the items serve as a biographical insight into Kierkegaard’s relationships and breathe life into his thinking.

The engagement ring that Kierkegaard had remade after he broke off his engagement to Regine Olsen.

The engagement ring that Kierkegaard had remade after he broke off his engagement to Regine Olsen. @ Museum of Copenhagen

"After Kierkegaard broke off the engagement to Regine Olsen, he had the ring remade so that the stones formed the shape of a cross. The symbolism of that decision can be interpreted as a transformation of his physical love for Olsen to Christian love, and thus as an eternal symbol of the marriage that would never come to be," says Joakim Garff.

A focus on research

The exhibit opens on 5 May, the 200th anniversary of Kierkegaard’s birth. For the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, the day will signal the start of a year-long celebration of the philosopher’s life through lectures, book releases and classes.

 "The main goal of the Søren Kierkegaard Centre during the coming year will be to draw attention to his writings and the universal appeal of his thinking. By working together with the Museum of Copenhagen, we hope we can open a window on his life and his work and make it more accessible to a broad audience. We have all experienced love in its many forms, and the exhibit will give people the opportunity to reflect and rethink love, and quite possibly, to become a little wiser about it," Pia Søloft says.

The University of Copenhagen will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Kierkegaard’s birth with a religious service in Copenhagen Cathedral, attended by Her Majesty, Queen Margrethe II. After the service, the Søren Kierkegaard Centre will present the University with a new edition of the 28 volume collected works of Kierkegaard. The presentation will take place in the University’s Ceremonial Hall and be followed by a lecture. The week after, the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre will host a congress attended by Kierkegaard scholars from around the world. Among the keynote speakers is Norwegian-American author Siri Hustvedt.

Contact

Pia Søltoft, director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre
Phone: +45 51 22 75 94

Anne Rahbek, communication officer
Phone: + 45 20 56 98 34

Read more about the celebration on the anniversary website.