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200th birthday of Danish philosopher Kierkegaard

Two centuries since the Danish deep-thinker first pondered his own existence: Copenhagen to celebrate him with lectures, concerts, conferences

Life can only be understood backwards. But it must be lived forward.

The words of Søren Kierkegaard, existentialist Danish philosopher, Christian theologian and author, who celebrates his 200th birthday in 2013.

He was born 5 May, 1813, and this year the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the rest of the philosophically-inclined world will look back on his life and ideas.

Revolutionised the way we think

As a philosopher in the 19th century, Kierkegaard was considered the father of the existentialist perspective, and held controversial and insightful contemporary views on life and religion. His unique concepts of things like love, religion, and self-awareness continue to hold significance into the 21st century.

Counsel of Kierkegaard coordinator, Rasmus Quistgaard, credits Kierkegaard as an »immensely modern thinker, who humanized philosophy and revolutionized the way we think about our lives and ourselves«.

Within the last two centuries, Kierkegaard’s work has been translated from Danish into a multitude of languages, and today his work is read and referenced all over the world.

Church of Our Lady significant for Kierkegaard

»Kierkegaard’s fame has only gotten stronger in the last three generations, and this celebration hopes to highlight how accessible Kierkegaard can be to a new generation,« says Rasmus Quistgaard.

The celebration will officially kick off on Kierkegaard’s birthday, 5 May and run until 11 November. The festivities will begin with a festive church service on 5 May at the Church of Our Lady, Vor Frue Kirke, the same place where Kierkegaard’s funeral was held. A formal lecture will follow at the main university hall at Frue Plads.

This building holds special significance to Kierkegaard, who had a distinct presence at the University of Copenhagen, often giving lectures himself in these same historic buildings. Søren Kierkegaard was known as having rarely left Copenhagen. With the exception of a study tour to Berlin, he virtually lived all of his life within the city, making the link between the city
of Copenhagen and this bicentennial event particularly strong.

Big Kierkegaard conference

Many of the buildings where Kierkegaard lived and the places he frequented still exist today, providing an opportunity to experience Copenhagen in a similar manner to Kierkegaard’s 19th century life. City tours and exhibitions will be organized that highlight this important association.

»Many people take Søren Kierkegaard’s popularity for granted,« notes Rasmus Quistgaard, adding that the events and activities will inspire individuals to learn more about his work and its relation to modern life.

The Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, affiliated with the University of Copenhagen, will be hosting special Kierkegaard-related festivities in 2013. The research centre aims to disseminate research on Kierkegaard along with Kierkegaard’s philosophies to a wider general public. Most notably, the research centre will be hosting an international academic conference from May 6-8. This jubilee congress, entitled Reconsidering Kierkegaard in a Global World, will bring scholars and researchers from around the world to a discuss Kierkegaard and the global influence of his work.

Whatever Kierkegaard you want

The research centre, in connection with the Faculty of Theology at the university, will also be offering a special selection of Kierkegaard-related academic courses and lecture series. A list of these courses, currently being offered in this spring semester, can be found here.

In the fall, plans are underway to host two travelling lecture tours outside of Copenhagen. The tours will be provided through the University of Copenhagen, and are intended to promote as well as celebrate the life and work of Kierkegaard within these countries. Currently, the tours are planned for one Eastern European country as well as one German-speaking country.

According to Rasmus Quistgaard, »there is no single quality of Kierkegaard that this celebration intends to project; instead, the hope is that everyone will focus on the aspect of Kierkegaard that they find most interesting themselves.«

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