PRINT May 1991


AMONG SÖREN KIERKEGAARD'S divers prescriptive parables there is one, “The Critical Apparatus,” that might profit our attention on this reflective occasion, or, at the least, allow us an opportunity for critical play.

Kierkegaard directs his readers to imagine a country in which a “royal command” has been issued “to all the office-bearers and subjects, in short, to the whole population.” What follows is something of a remarkable transformation in which the royal subjects respond by becoming interpreters of the decree-as-text. “The office-bearers become authors,” and proceed to produce a learned and prodigious literature “more elegant, more profound, more ingenious, more wonderful, more charming, and more wonderfully charming,” but most of all more voluminous than the critical literature itself is able to survey. “Everything became interpretation—but no one read the royal command with a view

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