This thesis applies Søren Kierkegaard's understanding of irony as outlined in his master's thesis, The Concept of Irony, to the literary works of Fernando Pessoa. Recently Kierkegaardian scholarship has opened possibilities for non-traditional interpretation of Kierkegaard's dissertation and pseudonymous "aesthetic" texts by reading them in the ironic tone in which they were written. This paper offers a similar re-reading of the poetic and prose works Pessoa attributes to his heteronyms.

Kierkegaard's presentation of Socrates as irony serves as a model for how Pessoa sustains the heteronymic project by balancing the use of rhetorical irony within the works of the heteronyms with simultaneous use of "Socratic" irony relating to both the heteronyms and their literary contributions. Pessoa "controls" irony by bringing his heteronyms into his historical reality whereby he posits subjectivities for them. The necessary element of eros as it is identified with Socrates and thereby with irony is defined negatively as the desire for that which one is lacking and is sustained by the distance inherent in desire. Irony-eros as desire is present in the works of each of Pessoa's poetic heteronyms, gains for them corporeality, and characterizes the relationship the reader has with those works. Pessoa, like Socrates, is unable to extend controlled irony to his personal life and remains in the negativity of desire.

Bernardo Soares and O Livro do Desassossego challenge traditional notions of reality since Soares feels with equal intensity the reality of his actuality and that of his imagination. Kierkegaard holds that the imagination provides the thinker with various possibilities or ideals. The thinker must then actualize the ideal. Kierkegaard's pseudonyms offer possible life-views as do Pessoa's heteronyms. The distance of irony is essential, for in reflecting on the life-views, the reader must not be able to see the author in that reflection. Unlike Kierkegaard, Pessoa successfully distanced himself from his heteronyms by multiplying and deferring his identity. Adept in Socratic midwifery Pessoa establishes the subjectivity of other "Pessoas" through whom he offers his readers possibilities. Pessoa's ironic existence proves the self is indefinable and unassimilable to any System.



College and Department

Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature



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Fernando Pessoa, Kierkegaard, irony, Socrates, Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Alvaro de Campos, Bernardo Soares, pseudonyms, heteronyms, eros, imagination, self