Borges On the Trend in Literary Commentary

I have read the Commedia many times, in all of the editions I could find, and I have been distracted by the different commentaries, the varied interpretations of that multifaceted work. … I have found that in the oldest editions theological commentary predominates; in the nineteenth century, historical; and currently, aesthetic, which directs us toward the accentuation of each line, one of the great virtues of Dante.
–Jorge Luis Borges “Seven Nights”

As I’ve been preoccupied with Kierkegaard lately, I seem to read everything with reference to him. During a discussion of Dante’s Divine Comedy in my GR group, someone quoted Borges comment on the commentaries, which I find a bit depressing from the Kierkegaardian pov. This trend in the literary commentary (which is perhaps true not only with regard to Divine Comedy in particular, but also in general), shifting from theological to historical to aesthetic, seems to correspond well with Kierkegaard’s three spheres of existence, the religious, the ethical and the aesthetic. Apparently we’re descending from the highest sphere to the lowest. What’s next, I wonder?


2 thoughts on “Borges On the Trend in Literary Commentary

  1. If it cheers you up any, I think Kierkegaard would disagree that we are devolving. We’ve always been this aesthetic and shallow. At least, Bruce Kirmmse argues in his book _Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark_ that Kierkegaard was “agnostic” in respect to time; that is, while most of his contemporaries were optimistically assuming things would get better and better, Kierkegaard believed every individual and every generation starts over from the beginning. But if that’s true, then pessimism would be just as mistaken. We all start essentially from the same point.

    I’ll be honest: some days I find this “we’re not getting any worse” prognosis to be way too chipper. But I try to take heart in the knowledge that every generation has thought the following generation was a miserable waste of oxygen, and that the generation one or two before were near demigods. TTFN

    1. We all start essentially from the same point.”

      Yes and no. Yes, with regard to eternity, no, wrt temporality. If we look at an individual’s life, as a microcosm of the world, obviously the old and the young don’t start from the same point in their lifespan, the young having a whole life ahead of him and the old behind him. The way the insurance companies see it, the old are nearer the point of death than the young. They only look at probability, which according to Kierkegaard, is an insult to faith, if memory serves.

      BTW, I wrote about Kierkegaard’s “historical point of view” in my last post after reading your comment about “the leap”. Thanks for the stimulating discussion, as usual.

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