D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

Fourth Period: A Prelude to The Second Authorship (1846-48)

Phister As Captain Scipio

  • Phister as Captain Scipio (in the Comic Opera Ludovic): A Recollection and for Recollection
  • Hr. Phister som Captain Scipio (i Syngestykket Ludovic): En erindring og for Erindringen
  • Procul
  • 1848
  • KW17, SKS13, Søren Kierkegaards Papirer

Though this article was actually published after Christian Discourses, which is a "direct" work of Kierkegaard, it belongs stylistically and dialectically to what I call Kierkegaard's interlude period. This work is on the actor Joachim Ludvig Phister's (1807-1896) portrayal of Captain Scipio. Kierkegaard elsewhere writes on the acting profession: see The Crisis and A Crisis in the Life of an Actress and Either/Or (see "The Tragic in Ancient Drama" and "The First Love"), and A Cursory Observation. Again we can see Kierkegaard's abiding interest in the concept of reflection. In Two Ages reflection refers to a self-referential ignorance of the absolute, which is passionless. Here, since Kierkegaard is writing with a pseudonym, he describes reflection positively from an esthetic standpoint.

Herr Phister's forte is: reflection. There is therefore scarcely any actor on the stage so diligent as he, and not very many who have a notion of what diligence is. Diligence is here taken in the pregnant sense: study, thoughtfulness, reflective attention to every detail, even the least (p. 330).

However, by diligence and study, Kierkegaard may mean a type of passion for the craft of acting, especially when we consider the etymology of "study" from the Latin studium, meaning zeal or exertion toward something. Kierkegaard, who was proficient in Latin and Greek was likely intentionally alluding to this.

He can devote the longest time to a study, but he can use even the shortest time in such an intensively thoughtful way that it becomes study. Therefore there is perhaps hardly another actor on our stage who feels, to the degree he does, the burden of carrying out any particular portrayal, just because he has so little immediacy and so much reflection, that is, just because every single portrayal is in the strictest sense a study, is a totality thoroughly reflected upon in every minute detail (p. 330).

When Kierkegaard mentions "immediacy" he refers to the transparency of the performance. In good art it often appears that the work is done effortlessly and directly, that is, without mediation, a phenomenon that actors today sometimes describe as "not seeing the work".

Kierkegaard closes by referring back to the subtitle, that this "brief article is a recollection". "A Recollection and for Recollection" would appear to be redundant. He explains that he uses the term recollection because he had seen the production some time earlier. Elsewhere in Kierkegaard's writings we see that recollection refers to Plato's theory of knowledge acquisition. It is a more intense phenomenon than mere remembrance. The physical aspect of remembrance records the senses of the event and the psychical aspect of recollection is the identifying and the interpretative element that processes the memory. Recollection in Kierkegaard must be seen as a psychical happening. But he does not tell us that here. This work is, after all, a pseudonymous work.

Procul is Latin for "from a distance". "This pseudonym", Crites suggests, "seems to have been chosen with the passage...in mind, which...refers to the 'infinitely distant' relationship between the reflective critic and the reflective artist whom he admires, an admiration 'as aristocratically distant as mind can be from mind.'" We may again note the distance Kierkegaard keeps from his pseudonymous writings.