Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Adams, Noel

Second Advisor

Zurcher, Amelia

Third Advisor

Ibáñez-Noé, Javier


This dissertation focuses on an exploration of the use of parables in the works of Soren Kierkegaard. While some work has been done on Kierkegaard’s poetic style, very little attention has been paid to his metaphors, despite their prevalent use in his works. Much of the scholarship instead treats his parables as mere examples of philosophical concepts. In this work, I argue that Kierkegaard’s parables function primarily to cause the reader to see him or herself truly. The parables work like mirrors, reflecting our true selves back onto ourself. In this way, the parables prompt Kierkegaard’s readers to overcome the illusion of Christendom and to instead recognize the requirements that authentic Christianity places upon them. My dissertation begins with an examination of the purpose that Kierkegaard saw for his authorship. By focusing on his later works, I argue that Kierkegaard primarily wanted to bring the religious forward in his readers. He thought that in order to accomplish this he needed to start with works describing the life that he thought most of his readers lived, a life of pleasure seeking, and to slowly move them towards the religious. I then present Kierkegaard’s view of what Christianity essentially consists of, subjectivity, and of the style of communication that is tied to subjectivity. Kierkegaard claims that when communicating subjective truths that we must employ an indirect style. I go on to argue that parables very much fit into this style and that they work to cause tension on the part of the reader. The reader of the parable must choose between various competing interpretations that the parable presents, and in choosing how to interpret the parable, the reader reveals and discloses him or herself. I follow this up with an examination of a number of parables from different works of Kierkegaard, showing how they function in this manner. I end by arguing that Kierkegaard’s parables are designed to function like mirrors, revealing ourselves to us.