Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

When Elliott Smith, the tragic pop acoustic singer songwriter from Portland, titled his third album Either/Or, he was deliberately linking himself to Søren Kierkegaard, the existentialist philosopher of mid-1800s Copenhagen, and his book with the same title. Yet when people talk about the connection, they usually conclude that the depressed Smith was simply attracted to the musings of a depressed Kierkegaard, as if their depression was the only similarity. However, I propose that with the allusive title, Smith begs us to compare the content and form of both works, to not just see Kierkegaard as some vague figure who generally touched on similar concepts, but to deeply examine where the lyrics mirror, contradict, react to, and are shaped by Kierkegaard’s own words. In the album, Smith often comes across as a modern aesthete with his desire for passion, obsession with time, and indecisiveness, characteristics Kierkegaard fleshes out in his Either/Or.

Location

4116 JFSB

Start Date

20-3-2015 10:15 AM

End Date

20-3-2015 11:45 AM

Share

COinS
 
Mar 20th, 10:15 AM Mar 20th, 11:45 AM

Kierkegaard's Aesthetic Life View in Elliott Smith's Either/Or

4116 JFSB

When Elliott Smith, the tragic pop acoustic singer songwriter from Portland, titled his third album Either/Or, he was deliberately linking himself to Søren Kierkegaard, the existentialist philosopher of mid-1800s Copenhagen, and his book with the same title. Yet when people talk about the connection, they usually conclude that the depressed Smith was simply attracted to the musings of a depressed Kierkegaard, as if their depression was the only similarity. However, I propose that with the allusive title, Smith begs us to compare the content and form of both works, to not just see Kierkegaard as some vague figure who generally touched on similar concepts, but to deeply examine where the lyrics mirror, contradict, react to, and are shaped by Kierkegaard’s own words. In the album, Smith often comes across as a modern aesthete with his desire for passion, obsession with time, and indecisiveness, characteristics Kierkegaard fleshes out in his Either/Or.