Clothes Mocketh the Man: Kierkegaard, the Bible, and the Aesthetics of Attire

Eric Ziolkowski

Ph.D., Helen H. P. Manson Professor of Bible, Head of the Department of Religious Studies, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA.

Address: 730 High St., Easton, PA 18042, USA.

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Abstract: As humans are the only animals that clothe themselves artificially, clothing has been the object of much religious and moral reflection in different cultures around the world. Textile analogies and clothing metaphors crop up frequently throughout Kierkegaard’s authorship, both the signed and the pseudonymous writings, sometimes as image, other times as metaphor or analogy. However, this article confines itself to considering the motifs of clothes and nakedness very specifically in Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits. The evocation of the single individual in the book’s front matter already hints at a biblically-rooted, clothes-related image that recurs in the volume: Adamic nakedness, or the primordial, pre-clothed human being. As the present article demonstrates, this image connects with a complex semantics of clothing that runs through the discourses, entailing three other main images from the Bible: King Solomon in his purple robes, the even more splendidly clothed lilies of the fields, and the practically naked crucified Jesus — with the additional biblical figures of Job and the victim from the Good Samaritan story becoming pertinent as well.

Key words: Kierkegaard, Jesus, clothes, Bible, King Solomon, Job (biblical character).

Received at February 18, 2019.

How to cite: Ziolkowski, Eric (2019). Clothes Mocketh the Man: Kierkegaard, the Bible, and the Aesthetics of Attire. Researcher. European Journal of Humanities & Social Sciences. 2 (2), 87–112.


Copyright © 2019 Authors retain the copyright of this article. This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


As humans are the only animals that clothe themselves artificially, clothing has been the object of much religious and moral reflection in different cultures around the world. In religious myth, clothing often symbolizes what is mundane, non-essential, and expendable. Hence a Babylonian myth tells of the goddess Ishtar being ritually stripped of all her garments and jewelry as she descends to the underworld (Pritchard 1958, pp. 80‒86). In the Bhagavadgītā, Krishna describes the body as the soul’s clothes, shed after one life, and put back on in the next (Zaehner 1969, p. 49). Confucius, to be sure, emphasized the importance of the ways persons present themselves in various social and private contexts, and was known for dressing appropriately for every situation, whether at home, outside, or at court. Yet he also reportedly stated: “A Knight whose heart is set upon the Way, but who is ashamed of wearing shabby clothes and eating coarse food, is not worth calling into counsel” (Waley 1938, pp. 103‒4 [bk. 4, §9]). Laozi likewise suggested that in a simple, rustic, ideal society, the people “should be contented with their food, pleased with their clothing, satisfied with their homes, [etc.]” (Daodejing 80, in Waley 1958, p. 241). Socrates, though not unkempt like Diogenes of Sinope, claimed to be as unfit for “fine raiment and fine shoes” as for fine speech[1]. In the Bible, meanwhile, as Northrop Frye points out, most references to clothing “represent the transparent ‘net’ which the fallen world flings around us” (Denham 2004, p. 370). The Bible’s God regards clothing harshly — condemning the daughters of Zion for their lewd attire (Isa. 3:17‒23) and threatening to punish aristocrats dressed in imported clothes (Zeph. 1:8; see Simmel 1904, p. 136). The Hebrew prophets tended to wear sackcloth (2 Kgs. 1:8; Isa. 20:2; Zech. 13:4‒6); Isaiah was said to have “walked naked and barefoot for three years” (Isa. 20:3, NRSV). And who could forget John the Baptist, “clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (Mark 1:6; cf. Matt. 3:4)?

The association of clothes with worldly superficiality persisted in the medieval West. For example, kabbalists, who sometimes construed the ten sefirot (“emanations” of Ein Sof, the Infinite) as God’s clothes, metaphorized the scriptures’ tales and stories as the worldly outer “garments of Torah”, beyond which the righteous must penetrate (Zohar 3:152a, in Matt. et al. 2004–, vol. 8 [2014], 520; see also Fishbane 1992, pp. 34‒35; Wolfson 2000, p. 189 n. 26). Accordingly, Maimonides, encouraging his fellow Jews to dismiss from their thoughts certain astrological notions, urged: “Cleanse your mind as one cleanses dirty clothes” (Epistle to Yemen, in Twersky 1972, 452). Christian asceticism crystallizes in the renunciation of worldly goods by Francis of Assisi, who symbolized his act by publicly stripping himself naked and handing his clothes back to his father, a textile merchant[2].

Which brings us to Søren Kierkegaard, another textile merchant’s son[3]. Although Kierkegaard never mocked the peculiarities of monastic garb as Luther did, he claims in an entry of 1848 in his journal: “I have never been a Diogenes <…>; I have dressed properly and decently” (1967–78, vol. 6, §6160 [repr. in 1982, Suppl., p. 227]). Yet, two years earlier, his own idiosyncratic attire — especially his allegedly uneven trousers[4] — contributed to making him a public laughingstock during his notorious controversy with the Copenhagen tabloid, The Corsair. So it is perhaps only natural, as we shall see, that clothing assumes unusual significance as a leitmotif in Kierkegaard’s subsequent writings.

In this respect, Kierkegaard was not alone in his period and the era leading up to it; others, too, appealed to clothing as a crucial, highly appealing metaphor to make philosophical or theological points — that is, in an age when the oppositional notions of clothed vs. naked might naturally resonate with such distinctions as noumenon vs. phenomenon, infinite vs. finite, ideal vs. real, and so forth. Immanuel Kant, for example, had characterized pure moral religion as a “bare” or “naked” (bloss) body that one must “clothe” (einzukleiden) with the theoretical garb of morality and theology in the form of a “historical”, “revealed”, or “ecclesiastical faith”[5]. And G. W. F. Hegel, likewise, appealed to the image of modern clothes as one of many outward expressions and needs that are necessary and common to all humans, yet without being connected with the essential features and interests that constitute the universal element proper to human existence, especially to our inner life:

…the cut of our clothes today is inartistic and prosaic in comparison with the more ideal drapery of the ancients. <…> Thus, <…> our manner of dress, as outer covering, is insufficiently marked out by our inner life to appear conversely as shaped from within; instead, in an untruthful imitation of our natural form, it is done with and unalterable once it has been cut[6].

Among Kierkegaard’s contemporaries, one who most saliently exemplified the commingling of the infinite and the finite “in the same wardrobe”, especially through the usage of a vast tapestry of sartorial similes and metaphors, was Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)[7]. It was he who coined the telltale phrase natural supernaturalism in his Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh (1833–34) to designate the Romantic sense of the infinite in the finite. The Latin title, meaning literally “Tailor Re-tailored”, harks back to that same biblical notion that surfaces in Kierkegaard. Echoing the Psalmist, Isaiah, and St. Paul, Carlyle’s protagonist Diogenes Teufelsdröckh points out: “It is written, the Heavens and the Earth shall fade away like a Vesture; which indeed they are: the Time-vesture of the Eternal”. Anything that “exists sensibly” and “represents Spirit to Spirit” constitutes

…a Clothing, a suit of Raiment, put on for a season, and to be laid off. Thus in this one pregnant subject of Clothes, rightly understood, is included all that men have thought, dreamed, done, and been: the whole External Universe and what it holds is but Clothing, and the essence of all Science lies in the Philosophy of Clothes (Carlyle 1979, p. 74 [bk. 1, chap. 11]).

As reflected here, Sartor was germinally inspired by Jonathan Swift’s satiric account of “worshippers” who “held the universe to be a large suit of clothes, which invests everything” (1986, p. 36; see also Carlyle 1979, pp. xxxiii, 74n.2, 289n.3). Aside from Sartor’s numerous references to Swift, it is little wonder that Carlyle’s conception of “man himself [as] but a micro-coat” (1979, p. 36 [bk. 1, chap. 5]) supports Teufelsdröckh’s rehearsal of the adage, dating to the early fifteenth century, that clothes maketh the man (Knowles 1999, p. 597): “Clothes have made Men of us; they are threatening to make Clothes-screens of us” (Carlyle 1979, p. 41 [bk. 1, chap. 5]). In addition, several years before Sartor, Carlyle discerned in the poetry of Novalis a singularly reverential view of “external nature” as being “no longer dead, hostile Matter, but the veil and mysterious Garment of the Unseen; as it were, the Voice with which the Deity proclaims itself to man” (“Novalis” [1829], in Traill 1898–1907, vol. 27, p. 29). However, Teufelsdröckh claims to have first arrived at “the question of Clothes” while contemplating the famous description of nature as “the living visible Garment of God” near the opening of Goethe’s Faust. In the words of the Earth Spirit, as loosely Anglicized in Sartor: “[I w]ork and weave in endless motion! / …’Tis thus at the roaring Loom of Time I ply, / And weave for God the Garment thou seest Him by” (Carlyle 1979, pp. 55‒56 [bk. 1, chap.8])[8].

Repeated later in Sartor (pp. 188 [bk. 2, chap. 9], p. 205 [bk. 2, chap. 10]), and alluded to elsewhere in Carlyle’s writings[9], Goethe’s image of nature as God’s living garment (der Gottheit lebendiges Kleid) proved seminal for Carlyle, for it enabled him to reconcile the Calvinist dualism in which he had been steeped from childhood with the transcendent sphere of values he had absorbed from modern German thinkers (Harrold, “Introduction”, to Carlyle 1979, pp. xxxiii–xxxiv; Harrold 1934, p. 79).

Textile analogies and clothing metaphors crop up frequently throughout Kierkegaard’s authorship, both the signed and the pseudonymous writings, sometimes as image, other times as metaphor or analogy[10]. However, I will confine this article to considering the motifs of clothes and nakedness very specifically in Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (1847).

The Godlike Book and the Adamic Reader

In the front matter of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, neither the prefatory dedication to the single individual nor its elaboration in the first paragraph of the preface mentions clothes. Yet the evocation of the single individual already hints at a biblically-rooted, clothes-related image that recurs in the book: Adamic nakedness, or the primordial, pre-clothed human being. As we shall see, this image connects with a semantics of clothing that runs through the ensuing discourses, entailing three other main images from the Bible: King Solomon in his purple robes, the even more splendidly clothed lilies of the fields, and the practically naked crucified Jesus — with the additional biblical figures of Job and the victim from the Good Samaritan story becoming pertinent as well.

How does the book’s dedication bear upon the naked Adam, and hence, inversely, upon the book’s recurrent motifs of clothes? We might first consider the long-standing concern in Kierkegaard’s writings over the single individual’s relation to Adam. This concern is anticipated as early as a journal entry of 1839, where, contemplating the lyric poetry of the Middle Ages, Kierkegaard opines that such poetry “was equipped with a complete objectivity — it is not the individual [Individet], it is man [Mennesket] (Adam, i.e., mankind [Menneskeheden]); every feature is world-historical” (1967–78, vol. 1, §35). The term Individ, which Kierkegaard generally uses in the sense of “person” to connote the individual “stand[ing] in a relationship of thoroughgoing dependence upon the race and environment” (comment by Malantshuk in Kierkegaard 1967–78, vol. 2, p. 597, s.v. “Individual”), is not to be confused with den Enkelte, the term by which he designates the single individual as a person defined through her or his relationship to God. However, this early entry clearly distinguishes between Individ and “man” or “mankind” as embodied by the progenitor of the race, Adam. So, in a sense, this particular use of Individ anticipates Kierkegaard’s later usage of den Enkelte, and does not square with the formulation posited by Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis, “that man is individuum and as such simultaneously himself and the whole race”, or that “At every moment, the individual [Individet] is both himself and the race” (1980a, p. 28).

Insistent that “sin enters into the single individual as the single individual”, and never by any other way (1980a, p. 50), Vigilius Haufniensis repeatedly speaks of the “more” that post-Adamic or “subsequent”, procreated individuals have in relation to Adam; for the subsequent individual, “anxiety will be more reflective”, there is “more sensuousness”, and “the future is reflected more than for Adam” (1980a, pp. 52, 72, 91; cf. 77, 109). Yet even while stressing that the generative relation to Adam makes it impossible for any individual to escape this consequent “more” (because generation is necessarily accompanied by an increase of sensuousness, and hence of anxiety), Vigilius qualifies that this “more” does not essentially differentiate the individual from Adam (see 1980a, p. 64). Because sin enters the world as a “qualitative leap” with the subsequent individual just as it did with Adam, anxiety (defined as “freedom’s disclosure to itself in possibility” [1980a, p. 111]) “loses its dialectical ambiguity” for both of them (1980a, p. 112).

Vigilius suggests that something analogous to Adam’s fall is repeated in the existence of every subsequent individual[11]. Accordingly, Vigilius’s investigation of anxiety and Adamic sin eschews “the Pelagian irresponsibility [i.e., the denial of hereditary sin] that is incapable of weaving the individual into the cloth of the race but instead lets each individual stick out like the end of a thread”[12]. These textile metaphors, of the race as “cloth” (or, more literally, “loom,” Væv) and the individual as “thread-end” (Traad-Ende), indicate the pertinence of the single individual to the naked Adam and hence to the clothes motif. As one of the discourses of 1847 will reveal, the scriptural verse that furnishes the most precise analogue to the single individual’s evasion of God through concealment in the crowd is Genesis 3:8, which tells about the naked Adam and Eve concealing themselves among the trees when they heard God walking in the garden.

This image deeply impressed Kierkegaard early on. In the margin of a journal entry of February 8, 1839, where he reflected about the moment in our lives “when we go as if naked out of our self-scrutiny” (1967–78, vol. 4, §4410), he comments: “And then like Adam we must say with deep sorrow: I heard your voice in the garden and saw that I was naked, and therefore I hid myself. Genesis 3:10” (1967–78, vol. 4, §4411). Later that spring, he writes of the lyrical stirrings that the evening hours elicit, hours he associates with the return of God to the garden at Genesis 3:8a, just before he beckons the hidden, naked Adam (Gen. 3:9): “no wonder, therefore, that we read that the Lord God walked in the cool of the evening <…>, an evening hour when the pressure of reflection is a solemn distant sound” (May 17, 1839, Kierkegaard 1967–78, vol. 5, §5387 [repr. in 1989, Suppl., pp. 438‒39; and in 1997a, Suppl., p. 97]). In two discourses of 1844–45, Kierkegaard again evokes this biblical scene. In the first, a discourse of 1844, he includes the scene of Adam’s self-concealment among a series of primordial events that would not have occurred if the divine command not to eat of the tree of knowledge had not been transgressed: “Nor would the voice of the Lord have wandered in the Garden of Eden and asked for Adam. Adam would not have hidden himself in the garden and in his inner being, but everything would have been open” (1990a, p. 126).

Here, Kierkegaard reads into the literal scriptural account of the naked Adam’s physical self-concealment the implication that Adam also concealed himself spiritually, that is, “in his inner being”. This reflection not only harks back to the entry of 1839 I already quoted about our going “as if naked out of our self-scrutiny” (which presupposes in us a state of inwardness). The conceptualization of Adam’s spiritual or “inner” self-concealment is also consonant with Kierkegaard’s contemplation, in an entry of 1845, of the fallen Adam “under the aspect of the eternal” as an individual who exists in isolation from his several kinspersons. In Kierkegaard’s view, the isolation of Adam is so intensive that on the Day of Judgment he will entreat God to save his own soul while expressing utter unconcern about the souls of Eve and Abel (1967–78, vol. 1, §1034). Kierkegaard’s next discourse that alludes to Genesis 3:8, this one of 1845, relates Adam’s self-concealment to two main stages in the life of the post-Adamic human individual: youth and adulthood.

For the youth, God lives close by. In the midst of his joy and his sorrow, he hears God’s voice calling; if he does not hear it, he misses it immediately, has not learned subterfuges, does not know how to conceal himself — until he hears it again. When one grows older, it is a long way to heaven, and the noise on earth makes it difficult to hear the voice; and if one does not hear it, the noise on earth makes it easy not to miss it (1990a, pp. 242‒43).

Consistent with Vigilius Haufniensis’s suggestion that the fall of Adam is repeated in the existence of every human after him, this last passage effectually bifurcates the human lifespan, analogizing the youth to the pre-fallen, unselfconsciously naked Adam who hears Yahweh’s voice, and the adult to the fallen, clothed Adam, far-removed from heaven, whose ears are deafened to God’s voice by “the noise on earth”.

The allusions to Adam’s self-concealment in these two discourses of 1844‒45 anticipate the appeal made to it in the second section of the first of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits’s three parts. There, the discourse reminds us that the most pernicious of all evasions is — hidden in the crowd, to want, as it were, to avoid God’s inspection of oneself as a single individual, as Adam once did when his bad conscience fooled him into thinking that he could hide among the trees. It may be more comfortable and more convenient and more cowardly to hide in the crowd this way in the hope that God would not be able to tell one from another. But in eternity everyone as a single individual must make an accounting to God (1993b, p. 128)[13].

This first allusion to Adam in Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits likens both the single individual to him, and the noisy terrestrial crowd to the Edenic trees in which the single individual and Adam hide to evade God[14]. What is less obvious is the association already implicitly drawn between the discourse itself and the reminder of God’s inescapable presence in Genesis 3:8‒10. To recognize this association, we must recall that it was out of their newfound fear about their nakedness, which they tried to obscure with fig-sewn loincloths (Gen 3:7), that Adam and Eve hid in the trees, and that this fear was elicited by the sound of Yahweh’s walking in the garden (Gen 3:8, 10). Noteworthy in this connection — regardless of whether Kierkegaard’s interest in this scene is perhaps reflective of a more general Scandinavian fascination with it[15] — is not only Vigilius Haufniensis’s allusion to an offended individuality’s use of an “offense as a fig leaf to cover what otherwise might have required a hypocritical cloak” (1980a, p. 145). Equally significant are the recurrent allusions to Psalm 139:7–12 in Kierkegaard’s signed religious writings. Viewed with Amos 9:2 as “perhaps unsurpassed as a description of the inescapability of God’s presence” (Brown et al. 1990, p. 550), evocations of this scriptural verse emphasize the futility of anyone’s trying to escape God’s justice, even by fleeing to the farthest sea, or by hiding in the abyss (1990a, p. 350; 1997c, p. 172; cf. 1993a, p. 24), or in the darkness (1990b, p. 42; cf. entry of 1851 in ibid., Suppl., p. 230). Also paraphrased more than once in those writings is that same Psalm’s second verse, about God’s omniscient discernment of people’s thoughts (1990a, p. 39; 1993b, 22). And in his last integral draft of “The Book of Adler”, composed around the same time as Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Kierkegaard again echoes that Psalm in characterizing the response that an ideal preacher will elicit in listeners: “How can I get away from this man? His sermon catches up with me in every hiding place, and how can I get rid of him, since he is over me at every moment?” (1998c, 105).

In the light of Psalm 139, this last passage patently links the ideal preacher’s sermon with the omniscient, omnipresent God from whom no person’s body or thoughts can be concealed. Kierkegaard, while not idolizing such a sermon, is suggesting that it would address the listener as single individual with as penetrating a directness as God displayed when he called out to the hidden Adam, “Where are you? <…> Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen. 3:9b, 11).

With this analogy in mind, let us now turn back now to Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, specifically to the pages that lead up to the condemnation of anyone’s effort to hide in the crowd, like Adam in the trees, “to avoid God’s inspection of oneself as a single individual”. There, consistent with the sermon/God analogy in “The Book on Adler”[16], the discourse assumes toward its reader a stance reminiscent of God’s relation to the guilty, self-concealing Adam. Just as the sound of God walking in the garden jolted Adam into shamed self-consciousness about his own nakedness, so the discourse reminds the reader: “As soon as God is present, everyone has the task before God of paying attention to himself” (1993b, p. 125). And if God immediately interrogated Adam, the discourse likewise proceeds to interrogate the reader: “The discourse is asking you, then, <…>: What kind of life is yours <…>?”; “Are you living in such a way that you are conscious of being a single individual?” (1993b, pp. 126, 127).

The only other explicit allusion to Adam in Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits reinforces the analogy between him and the reader as single individuals. According to the third discourse of part 3, suffering educates the single individual for eternity. In suffering, writes Kierkegaard, there is “obedience”, precisely that which was at stake with the pre-fallen Adam. And just as the cherubim stood guard with flaming sword to block Adam from returning to Eden, so suffering is inversely “the guardian angel who keeps you from slipping out again into the world” (1993b, 259; see Gen. 3:24). That this is the last explicit reference to Adam in the discourses of 1847 does not imply that he is peripheral to the thinking behind them[17]. At this point, moreover, the reader who thinks back to the preface will realize that, from the outset, the book has “sought” the single individual in a manner that harks back to Yahweh’s beckoning, finding, and confronting the hidden Adam in the garden. The book, as its preface stated, “seeks that single individual <…>. If it finds him, then in the remoteness of separation the understanding is complete when he keeps the book and the understanding to himself in the inwardness of appropriation” (1993b, p. 5).

In an earlier draft of another “Dedication”, the same motif of the book’s desire to locate the hidden but sought-after single individual as reader is combined with an evocation of the two most salient lapsarian emotions: after avowing that he does not know who or where the single individual whom he is seeking is, the author asserts that if he did know that individual “personally and with a worldly certainty, this would be my shame, my guilt — and my honor would be lost” (1967–78, vol. 5, §5948, p. 351 [repr. in 1998a, Suppl., p. 151; and 1993b, Suppl., p. 366]). Definitively characteristic of Kierkegaard’s signed religious writings, the direct, biblically-rooted communicational dynamic established in Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits between the author or book as God-like seeker and finder, and the reader as hidden, Adamic single individual, stands in stark contrast to the indirect, Socratic-maieutic dynamic that so famously characterizes Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous aesthetic writings.

Nonetheless, the former mode seems anticipated in the “Preface” to Kierkegaard’s first pseudonymous writing, Either/Or, inasmuch as its “editor” Victor Eremita claims that this book is intended for the “individual reader [en enkelt Læser]” (1987a, p. 14) — a claim that becomes the subject of public joking at the expense of Kierkegaard and more than one of his pseudonyms during the Corsair affair[18]. Nonetheless, the prefaces to his signed sets of upbuilding discourses that appeared from 1843 through 1845 describe those works as “seeking” to “find” the single individual (Enkelte; 1990a, pp. 5, 53, 107, 179, 231, 295) or as “quietly waiting” for that individual (1993a, p. 5) — rhetoric already reminiscent of Yahweh’s seeking and finding of the self-concealed Adam. In the preface to the first set of discourses Kierkegaard ever published, he evokes, though also inverts, the notion of concealment, to describe the book rather than the Adamic individual, and this evocation dovetails with Kierkegaard’s preoccupation with the gospel image of the lilies in subsequent discourses over the years. The book, itself sought after, “stood there like a humble little flower under the cover of the great forest” (1990a, p. 5).

In the prefaces to two of the sets of his devotional discourses published in 1849 (1997c, pp. 3, 111), Kierkegaard paraphrases, and explicitly refers the reader to, that self-description of that earliest of his published sets of discourses. The first preface, the one to The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air, is followed by a “Prayer” that seems linked indirectly with Genesis 3:8–10, especially when read in view of Kierkegaard’s already-established characterization of the human crowd as the “place” where the individual hides in the same way Adam hid amid the trees. The author prays that we learn from the lily and the bird of the Gospel

…what we in company with people, especially in a crowd of people, come to know with difficulty, and what we <…> so easily forget in company with people, especially in a crowd of people — what is it is to be a human being and what religiously is the requirement for being a human being (1997c, p. 3).

In Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Kierkegaard already indicated that becoming human in the deepest sense connotes a metaphorical stripping-off of one’s clothes, which would naturally entail a kind of return to or repetition of the prelapsarian condition of Adam, when he and Eve still were unselfconsciously naked (Gen. 2:25) — that is, before they defied Yahweh’s stricture, were found out and rebuked by him, and then were clothed by him in preparation for banishment (Gen. 3:21). In The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air, therefore, the preface and opening prayer that evoke Genesis 3:8‒10 are followed by a quoting of Jesus’s exhortation not to worry about those matters that were of no concern to Adam and Eve before the fall: working, eating and drinking, and wearing clothes — our worrying about which defines “worldly worry” for Kierkegaard (see 1993b, p. 194).

Likewise, in Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, the implicit associations of book/Yahweh/seekers and reader/Adam/hidden individual in the opening of the preface are immediately followed by a meditation upon the woman who sews a sacred cloth, presumably for use on an altar[19]. The needlewoman, we are told, “makes every flower as beautiful <…> as the lovely flowers of the field” (1993b, p. 5) — those lilies of Jesus’s sermon after which that little book of 1849 will be named. In the present meditation on them, the needlewoman represents the religious author, and her cloth represents his religious writing or “presentation” (cf. esp. Pap. VI B 159). Kierkegaard speaks of the deep distress that the needlewoman (=Kierkegaard) would feel if the beholder (=the reader) of the cloth (=the upbuilding discourse) were to err by seeing either the artistry that had been employed in its creation, or a defect, “instead of seeing the meaning of the cloth” (=the discourse’s meaning). Continuing with the same metaphors, he elaborates:

She could not work the sacred meaning into the cloth; she could not embroider it on the cloth as an additional ornament. The meaning is in the beholder and in the beholder’s understanding when, faced with himself and his own self, he has in the infinite remoteness of separation infinitely forgotten the needlewoman and her part (1993b, 5).

Although it was a permissible, fitting, and cherished duty, and also a supreme joy, for her to do everything to fulfill her role, “it would be an offense against God, an insulting misunderstanding to the poor needlewoman, if someone were to make the mistake of seeing what is there but is to be disregarded” (1993b, p. 6).

Sartorial Semantics in Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits

It is by no mere whim that part 1 of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits opens with a cry that sums up the God-forsaken, alienated condition of the fallen human being: “Father in heaven! What is a human being without you!” (1993b, p. 7). The whole ensuing book, inasmuch as its role recalls Yahweh’s in Eden, attempts to reverse the postlapsarian alienation of the human being, represented here by the distanced reader whom the book is “seeking”. Such a return to prelapsarian closeness with God requires a metaphorical movement from being clothed, like the fallen Adam, back to being naked, like the prefallen Adam. This is why the first discourse immediately quotes “Solomon’s” adage about everything having its own time (1993b, p. 10; Eccl. 3:2). No less significant than the adage itself is its traditional ascription to King Solomon, whom Jesus evoked as the paragon of glorious sartorial arrayal (see Matt. 6:29; Luke 12:27).

As opposed to Solomon’s innumerable amorous involvements (1 Kgs 11:1; Song of Sol. 6:8), and to the plenitude of his worldly interests (administrative and diplomatic dealings, building and mining projects, trading and mercantile enterprises, etc.), the process of repentance and confession is presently compared to “changing one’s clothes to divest oneself of multiplicity in order to make up one’s mind about one thing, to interrupt the pace of busy activity in order to put on the repose of contemplation in unity with oneself. And this unity with oneself is the celebration’s simple festive dress that is the condition of admittance” (Kierkegaard 1993b, p. 19). Hereafter in this discourse, intermittent images of changing, removing, or putting on one’s clothes are put to several analogical uses. Making up one’s mind in the hour of confession, to the point of being quiet (i Stilhed), is likened to “changing one’s clothes, to take everything that is noisy since it is empty, in order, hidden in quietness, to become disclosed” (1993b, p. 20). In behaving in such a way that might lead people to mistake his or her impatience for “humble, obedient enthusiasm”, the impatient person “hurls himself into time [kaster sig i Tiden] as a sick person throws himself on his bed, throws off all consideration for himself as a sick person [casts off] his clothes” (1993b, p. 62). Quite oppositely, the good (det Gode), as envisioned by the double-minded person, “puts on the slowness of time like a shabby suit of clothes, and in accord with this change of clothes, the double-minded person must be dressed in the humble character of the unprofitable servant” (1993b, pp. 63‒64).

Implicit in all these images is the idea of nakedness: the nakedness of the persons before they put on their clothes, or after they throw off their clothes, or as they change clothes. In thus recalling the pre-fallen Adam anticipated in the preface, these images prepare for the two explicit allusions, in section 2 of part 1, to the naked Adam hiding in the trees, a stark counterpoint to Solomon. That worldly monarch is the first individual in the entire book to be cited by name, the image of whose lavish, regal arrayal “in all his glory” (Matt. 6:29) will be discussed part 2.

Before then, however, an initial allusion is made to the central figure of the entire book, the mocked and crucified Christ, whose typological relation to both Adam and Solomon is firmly established in the New Testament[20]. When Jesus was crucified, reflects Kierkegaard, the cause of Christianity was lost from a temporal viewpoint while being fulfilled from the eternal vantage. The temporal view is summed up by those who mocked him on the cross[21], whereas the eternal view is captured by the crucified’s last words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), which he uttered just when the mob, the priests, the Roman soldiers, Herod, Pilate,

…and the loafers on the streets and the crowd at the gate and the journalists, if there were such people then, in short, when all the forces of the moment <…> were united in this view <…> that all was lost, dreadfully lost (1993b, p. 92).

This passage, whose mention of “journalists” suggests a linkage of Kierkegaard’s own mockery by the The Corsair with Jesus’s Passion[22], is also suggestive of the pattern of stripping and dressing involved in the Passion, most of whose perpetrators the passage mentions. In Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, the soldiers in Pilate’s praetorium strip Jesus and put on him a scarlet robe (Matt. 27:28) or purple cloak (Mark 15:17) and then, after mocking him, strip him of the robe or cloak and put his clothes back on him (Matt. 27:31; Mark 15:20) before leading him off to be crucified. In John’s account, too, the soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus (John 19:2). Only in John does Jesus wear this robe when displayed by Pilate to the crowd (John 19:15), just as only in the third Synoptic account does Herod with his soldiers array Jesus derisively in gorgeous apparel before sending him back to Pilate (Luke 23:11). In all four canonic gospels the soldiers who crucify Jesus divide his garments and cast lots for them (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34) or for his seamless tunic (John 19:23‒24), and Joseph of Arimathea afterwards wraps him in a linen shroud before entombing him (Matt. 27:59; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53; John 19:40). In addition to the stripping, dressing, and wrapping of Jesus, there is also the cameo, as Jesus is being led to Caiaphas, of the anonymous young man “with nothing but a linen cloth about his body” who, when seized, leaves the cloth and runs away naked (Mark 14:51‒52). And, strangely consistent with the stripping motif are the reports that Caiaphas tore his own robes in response to Jesus’s perceived blasphemy (Matt. 26:62; Mark 14:63), and that the temple’s curtain was torn in two after Jesus expired on the cross (Matt. 27:51; Luke 23:45).

Two points should be noted about all these images of dressing, wrapping, stripping, tearing, and nakedness. First, one can hardly imagine Jesus’s crucifixion — let alone examine the typical pictorial representation like the one Anti-Climacus elsewhere imagines showing and explaining to a child (see Kierkegaard 1991, pp. 174‒77; Ziolkowski 1998) — without picturing him to oneself as practically naked on the cross. Although not noted in the gospels, the crucified Jesus’s near or entire nakedness is implied by their mentioning that the soldiers divided and cast lots for his garments, and has been universally assumed by visual artists depicting Jesus on the cross. Thus, from a Pauline perspective, at the moment that Jesus’s death atones for Adam’s sin, Jesus’s near nakedness recalls the nudity of the pre-fallen Adam[23]. The second point has to do with Jesus’s questioning by Pilate about being King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33; cf. John 18:39; 19:3), and his being mockingly designated as such on the cross (Matt. 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:37‒38; John 19:19, 21; cf. Matt. 27:42; Mark 15:32). This designation, like his having been arrayed mock-regally in the purple robe and crowned with thorns, supports his typal connection to Solomon.

This second point should be kept in mind, because Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits explicitly evokes the image of regal purple garb in several later instances in connection with both Solomon (in his “royal purple robes”; 1993b, p. 170) and Jesus. In fact, the book’s first allusion to the crucified Jesus hints at his Solomonic association through the imagined scene of contemporary onlookers calling him “fool” for his failure to become “king” (1993b, p. 91). Even the discourse’s addressee is drawn loosely into this association when told: “In eternity there will be no question about your suffering, as little about the king’s purple”, for “Eternity asks only about faithfulness, asks the king about it just as earnestly as it asks the most wretched sufferer” (1993b, p. 147). The prospect of death, which can, “like the lily, [be] clothed in loveliness” (1993b, p. 203), brings to the willing sufferer the assurance of being “reappareled with the good — indeed, just as the dead person stands up and throws off his grave clothes, so you have thrown off the character of wretchedness. You are indistinguishable from <…> those who in the decision are with the good — they are all clothed alike, girded” — as Paul suggests in Ephesians 6:14‒17 — “about the loins with truth, clad in the armor of righteousness, wearing the helmet of salvation!” (Kierkegaard 1993b, p. 111).

If death irons out economic and class differences between humans like ephemeral wrinkles in cloth, Jesus has already suggested that the only clothing that matters in this life, by far the most splendid clothing, is not fabricated by human hands. “And why do you worry about clothing?” Kierkegaard quotes Jesus at the start of part 2:

Look at the lilies in the field, how they grow; they do not work, do not spin. But I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. If, then, God so clothes the grass of the field, <…> would he not much more clothe you, you of little faith?”[24]

The notion of “comparisons” broached here (i.e., comparisons of kings with the poor, of live humans with dead humans, of human clothes with lilies, etc.) leads Kierkegaard to conjure the image of the afflicted Job with his friends when they see, and then compare themselves with, Job — an image pertinent to clothes because Job, whom Kierkegaard later identifies as “a prototype for the human race” (1993b, p. 284), is putatively not wearing any as he sits among the ashes scraping his sores, and because his friends’ first reaction at this spectacle is to tear their own robes in grief (Job 2:8, 13; Kierkegaard 1993b, p. 161). It is to be stressed that they, not Job, engage in comparing. The example of Job, in fact, would illustrate Kierkegaard’s observation that “in actual straitened circumstances a person does not discover his need for food and clothing by way of comparison” (1993b, p. 171).

But what are those or any other robes, including Solomon’s, worth? Kierkegaard reiterates that the lilies, comprising a “carpet <…> richer than the halls of kings”, had to do no work “to make the carpet so beautiful”, whereas “with the products of human skill <…> the eyes, while dazzled by the fineness of the work, are filled with tears at the thought of the sufferings of the poor lace-maker” (1993b, p. 163). This contrast is intensified when the observer inspects more closely both the human fabric and the lilies: the more closely one inspects the lily, the more one’s wonderment increases

…at its loveliness and its ingenious formation; it is true only of the products of human skill that on closer inspection one discovers defects and imperfections; it is true that if you sharpen your vision with an artfully ground glass you see the coarse threads in even the most delicate human tapestry (1993b, p. 164).

The same holds true with our perceptions of the weaver of the lilies and the weaver of the human cloth: the one who intimately knows the human artist “sees that he is not so great after all”, whereas “of the artist who weaves the carpet of the field and produces the beauty of the lilies, <…> the wonder increases the closer one comes to him”, as does “the distance of adoration and worship” (1993b, p. 165). In addition to the contrasting here between God as weaver and the human weaver, Kierkegaard will later suggest the notion of Nature as weaver: “So the Gospel read earlier leads the worried one out into the field, into surroundings that will weave him into the great common life” (1993b, p. 181).

The distinctions, however, are not yet exhausted for Kierkegaard. For if it is true of lilies or even blades of grass that “not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of them”, a lily that could speak would suggest that the worried human should not be so filled with wonder at the lily as to overlook that it is “just a glorious to be a human being; should it not hold true that all of Solomon’s glory is nothing in comparison with what every human being is by being human, so that in order to be the most glorious thing he is and to be conscious of this Solomon must strip off all his glory and just be a human being!” (1993b, p. 165, emphasis mine)[25]. In calling to mind the scene of the Ecce homo (the Vulgate rendering of Pontius Pilate’s exclamation “Behold the man!” at John 19:5), the idea of Solomon shedding his royal robe to take on the glory of being “just a human being” reminds us that Jesus, when presented by Pilate outside the praetorium, appeared as a grim caricature of Solomon: bloodied from his flagellation, but freshly crowned with thorns, “a distinguished man robed in purple” — as Kierkegaard later describes him when evoking the Ecce homo (1993b, pp. 254‒55)[26]. Or, says Kierkegaard, consider Solomon when he has donned “his royal purple robes and sits majestically on his throne in all his glory”: in that context, one addresses him as “Your Majesty.” But if Solomon is addressed “in the eternal language of earnestness, then we say: Man!” — another echo of Pilate’s exclamation[27]. “We use the very same term of address for the lowliest person when he, like Lazarus, is sunk, almost unidentifiable, in poverty and wretchedness — we say: Man!”, in acknowledgment of “the essentially equal glory among all human beings” (1993b, pp. 170‒71).

Still in its second part, the book’s usage of the clothes motif climaxes in an excursus — the entirety of which Kierkegaard elsewhere characterizes as “humorous” — on Matthew 6:30: “If, then, God so clothes the grass of the field <…> would he not much more clothe you, you of little faith!” (1993b, 187; cf. 1997c, p. 5). This text, Kierkegaard explains, is not about the new dress one might want, or about the new dress coat one needs, but about the ingratitude of “wanting to forget how gloriously the human being is clothed from God’s hand” (1993b, p. 188). The text is not referring to “the few pieces of clothing [Klædningsstykker] a person may need” (1993b, p. 188). Just as it would be false to distinguish the lily’s existence from the idea of having clothes on, because “a lily is its clothing” (1993b, p. 188), so must the human being, anxious over articles of clothing, not forget “the first clothing” in which God clothed the human being.

To be clothed, then, means to be a human being — and therefore to be well clothed. Worldly worry is preoccupied with clothes and the dissimilarity of clothes <…>. The Gospel wants first of all to remind even a destitute person not to forget completely how gloriously he is clothed by God. <…> [W]e are perhaps much too inclined to worry about clothes and ungrateful enough to forget the first thoughts —and the first clothing. But by looking at the lily the worried one is reminded to compare his clothing with the lily’s — even if poverty has clothed him in rags (1993b, pp. 188‒89).

By “clothing,” Kierkegaard submits, “must be understood <…> what it is to be a human being” (1993b, p. 190). Even the pagan Socrates realized this, likening the soul to a weaver who “wove the body, <…> the human being’s clothing” (1993b, p. 190; cf. Plato, Phaedo 87b‒e, in Hamilton & Cairns 1963, pp. 69‒70). Yet the analogy is flawed, adds Kierkegaard, inasmuch as it credits the soul with the clothing’s creation. Kierkegaard derides any theory that “regards being a human being as if it were nothing, empties, and promptly commences the foolishness about pieces of clothing, about trousers and jackets, about purple and ermine” (1993b, p. 191). (Again, Kierkegaard’s Corsair experience seems to haunt the discussion through the mention of “trousers”.) “No”, ― he insists, “if a human being is going to compare himself to the lily, he has to say: All that I am by being a human being — that is my clothing. I am responsible for none of it, but glorious it is” (1993b, 191‒92). As God is said to have created the human in his own image (Gen 1:26), so must it “be glorious to be clothed in this way. <…> It is glorious to be clothed as the lily, even more glorious to be the erect and upright ruler, but most glorious to be nothing by worshiping” (1993b, pp. 192, 193).

As the first two parts of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits linked the biblical topoi of imago Dei and Ecce homo together through the clothes motif, the book’s third and final part functions as the recapitulation section of a sonata, drawing disparate clothes motifs toward resolution. Along the way, this part affords fleeting vignettes of clothes. Some are explicit, like those of the child holding onto its mother’s dress (1993b, 219), of the woman touching Jesus’s garment’s fringe (1993b, 232; see Matt. 9:2:20‒22), and of the Baptist’s camel’s hair shirt (1993b, 271). Other images, however, require the listener or reader to draw the association based on biblical sources: for example, when Job with his friends is evoked twice more, leaving it for us, again, to recall Job’s nakedness (1993b, 284, 287); and in an exposition of the Good Samaritan parable, which likewise relies on our memory that the assault victim in this tale was stripped as well as beaten before being left half dead (Luke 10:30).

So too is it later left to us to recall the nakedness of the crucified Jesus, as the book returns to the image of the cross toward the end. Luther, Kierkegaard reminds us, wrote “that a Christian has to wear the royal court dress of the cross” (1993b, 316; cf. Luther 1927, 279), yet Kierkegaard then wonders whether a Christian might also need to be skilled in speaking — that is, in speaking faithfully:

How nobly faithful is the courier who follows an overthrown emperor into exile and, when his imperial majesty is dressed in rags, still addresses him with the same submissiveness and homage as he did once in the halls of the palace and says: Your majesty — because he did not cringingly recognize the emperor by the purple and thereof can now nobly recognize him in rags (1993b, 317).

Some of the terms in this single sentence describing an apostle of Jesus conjure back up the other major clothes-related biblical figures who have populated these discourses: “emperor” (Solomon); “rags” (Job, Lazarus); “overthrown” (parabolic assault victim). These re-evocations are only appropriate, as the Gospels connect all these figures either narratively or typologically with Jesus. Hereafter, only one last evocation of clothes occurs, several pages from the book’s end. “Try it”, Kierkegaard challenges his audience, “imagine that he who was to proclaim to the world this message about the Holy One’s being crucified as a criminal between two robbers, that this man was dressed in purple and glory, <…> — try it, if you can just bear <…> the ring of a presumptuous mockery of an apostle” (1993b, 338).

“Dressed in purple and glory”: here the writing is on the wall for Kierkegaard’s fateful polemics seven years later against Bishop Mynster and the Danish church — polemics that paint the clergy as “[d]ramatically costumed <…> artists” (Kierkegaard 1998b, p. 133) and echo the Evangelists’ caution: “Beware those who like to go about in long robes!” (Kierkegaard 1998b, pp. 197‒200).



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[1] Quoted by Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers [Vitae philosophorum], chap. 5, Socrates §41, Hicks 1925, vol. 1, p. 171.

[2] This episode, commonly referred to as Francis’s Renunciation of Worldly Goods, was reported from early on in the accounts of his life. See, e.g., Thomas de Celano, First Life of St. Francis (Vita prima S. Francisci, 1228‒29), paragraphs 14–15, in Brown & Habig 1991, pp. 240‒41 and Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 1, pp. 193‒94; Julian Speyer, The Life of Saint Francis (Vita Sancti Francisci, 1232‒35), chap. 1, §9, in Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 1, p. 375; Henri d’Avranches, The Versified Life of Saint Francis (1232‒39), bk. 3, lines 135‒88, in Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 1, pp. 449‒50; The Beginning or Founding of the Order (1240‒41), a.k.a. Anonymus Perusinus (Anonymous of Perugia), now ascribed to John of Perugia (d. ca. 1270), chap. 1, §8 in Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 2, p. 37; Anon., The Legend of the Three Companions (Legenda trium sociorum, 1241‒47), chap. 6, sec. 20, in Brown & Habig 1991, p. 909 and in Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 2, pp. 79‒80); Thomas of Celano, Second Life of St. Francis (Vita secunda S. Francisci, 1247), bk. 1, chap. 7, paragraph 12, in Brown & Habig 1991, p. 372 and in Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 2, p. 251; Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, The Major Legend of Saint Francis (1260‒63), pt. 1, chap. 2, sec. 4, in Brown & Habig 1991, pp. 642‒43 and Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 2, p. 538; and idem, The Minor Legend of Saint Francis (1260‒63), chap. 1, lesson 7, in Brown & Habig 1991, pp. 796‒97 and Armstrong 1999–2001, vol. 2, p. 687.

[3] For a comparison with St. Francis, see Ziolkowski 2008.

[4] See, e.g., Kierkegaard 1982, pp. 114‒15, 120, 131, 135, etc.; 1998a, p. 96; and various entries of 1847: e.g., 1967–78, vol. 5, §6004 (repr. WL, Suppl. p. 421); Pap. VIII2 B 179:1 (translated in 1982, Suppl. p. 156); Pap. VIII2 B 235:27 (translated in 1998c, Suppl., p. 237); etc.; and of 1849: e.g., 1967–78, vol. 6, §6458 (repr. 1998a, Suppl., p. 204); Pap. X2 A 124 (repr. 1998a, Suppl., p. 215).

[5] Kant 1907, pp. 102‒3, 164, 195‒96 [pt. 4, “Allgemeine Anmerkung”]; Eng.: Greene & Silber 1960, pp. 94, 151, 183‒85. I am grateful to Stephen R. Palmquist for calling my attention to these passages in personal conversation. For discussion see Palmquist 1992, esp. pp. 133, 136; and Palmquist 1997, p. 596.

[6] Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik, pt. 1, chap. 3, sec. A, §2.a.α, in Marheineke et al. 1832‒45, vol. 10, pt. 1 (1835), pp. 212, 213; Eng.: Knox 1975, vol. 1, pp. 165, 166.

[7] For a comparison with Kierkegaard, see Ziolkowski 2011, pp. 213‒55.

[8] See Faust, pt. 1, sc. 1, lines 503, 508‒509, in Sachsen 1887‒1919, vol. 14, p. 32: “Wehe hin und her! / …So schaff’ ich am sausenden Webstuhl der Zeit, / Und wirke der Gottheit lebendiges Kleid”.

[9] For example, in the first chapter of “The Diamond Necklace” (1837), Carlyle characterizes a glimpse of “Romance” as a “many-glancing asbestos-thread in the Web of Universal-History, spirit-woven”, that “rustled there, <…> through that ‘wild-roaring Loom of Time’” (Traill 1898–1907, vol. 28, p. 328).

[10] Aside from all the other clothes motifs and images cited in this article, consider, e.g., “A’s” fixation on upon green coat or green cloaks (1987a, pp. 23, 30, 325, 327‒28, 329‒30, 331), a fixation shared by Constantin Constantius (see 1983, p. 170); the likening by “A” of the attire of his Swedish lover to that of Mozart’s Elvira (1987a, p. 200); Judge William’s outrage at a proposal that the clothing of men and women ought to be identical (Kierkegaard 1987b, p. 312); the comparison by Constantine Constantius of “hope”, “recollection”, and “repetition” to, respectively, “a new garment”, “a discarded garment”, and “an indestructible garment” (1983, p. 132); his allusion to Job’s words as “food and clothing <…> for [his] wretched soul” (1983, p. 204); his “smil[ing] at [himself] as a little child who has donned his father’s clothes” (1983, p. 206); Nicolaus Notabene’s observation that book prologues “change like clothing” (1997a, p. 3); Vigilius Haufniensis’s allusion to the ethicist’s fear of “fate and esthetic rigmarole that in the cloak of compassion would trick him out of <…> freedom” (1980a, p. 121fn.); Johannes Climacus’s comparison of “the king’s plebian cloak, which just by flapping open would betray the king”, with “the light Socratic summer cloak, which, although woven from nothing, yet is concealing and revealing” (1985, pp. 31‒32; cf. Plato, Symposium 220a‒b, in Hamilton & Cairns 1963, p. 571); the invocation by Kierkegaard of the view expressed by a character from one of J. L. Heiberg’s plays, Councilor Herr Zierlich, that women’s and men’s clothing should not hang together in a wardrobe, as an analogy in protesting the present age’s blending of the infinite with the finite “together in the wardrobe” (Kierkegaard 1998b, p. 162); and Kierkegaard’s assertion that God, who is changeless, “put on the visible world as a garment; he changes it as one changes a garment — himself unchanged” (1998b, p. 271). Consistent with all these evocations of clothes are the allusions by Johannes de Silentio to the tailor from the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Tailor in Heaven” (“Der Schneider im Himmel”; Kierkegaard 1983, p. 122), and by Kierkegaard in a draft of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the drunken tailor in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale “Master Flea” (“Meister Floh”; entry of 1845, Pap. VI B 98:35; translated in Kierkegaard 1992, Suppl., p. 43); and the extended analogy Kierkegaard once drew of The Corsair to a tailor whose skill was limited to altering old clothes (1982, p. 43). Notably, Constantin Constantius meets a seamstress in a fashion boutique and enlists her in one of his deceptive schemes involving the Young Man (1983, pp. 144‒45, 192). Also, the image of a tailor or sewer knotting the thread at its end is used repeatedly as a metaphor or analogy: e.g., by Anti-Climacus (1980b, p. 93); Nicolaus Notabene (1997a, p. 43); and Kierkegaard himself (1990b, p. 196).

[11] As Kierkegaard will observe a year before his death, “We human beings think as follows: this business of Adam’s fall, that happened a long, long time ago and is forgotten, and nowadays we are nice people — for God this happens with Adam today” (entry of 1854, Kierkegaard 1967–78, vol. 1, §698).

[12] Draft of 1844, Kierkegaard 1967–78, vol. 1, §51; as rendered differently in 1980a, Suppl., p. 186. Cf. the entry of July 11, 1837, Kierkegaard 1967–78, vol. 4, §3993; and St. Paul’s claim that “sin came into the world through one man” and hence “all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

[13] As Kierkegaard comments further, “in eternity there is no crush, no crowd, no hiding place in the crowd” (1993b, p. 128). Likewise, in the temporal world it proves futile to try to evade a responsibility by “hid[ing] from yourself and from others in the thicket of deliberation” (1993b, p. 131).

[14] Accordingly, Kierkegaard elsewhere writes: “Each individual who escapes into the crowd and thus cowardly avoids being the single individual <…> contributes his portion of cowardliness to the ‘cowardliness’ that is: a crowd” (“The Single Individual”, 1998a, Suppl., p. 108).

[15] Consider the claim made in a group of folk narratives widespread in the Nordic region “that various kinds of supernatural beings (elves, huldre, or other ‘nature spirits’) were children of Adam and Eve, but that Eve refused to show them to God, because they were not properly dressed” (Sands 2017, p. 164, here drawing upon the work of the folklorist Gunnar Granberg).

[16] Notwithstanding the Kierkegaard’s distinguishing elsewhere between sermons and discourses: e.g., 1990a, pp. 5, 53, 107, 179, 231, 295; and an entry of 1847, 1967–78, vol. 1, §68 (repr. in 1993b, Suppl., p. 388).

[17] On the contrary, the persisting import of Genesis 3:8‒10 to Kierkegaard’s understanding of the relation of his discourses to the individual reader is illuminated by the fact that he will more than once in later writings compare all human beings to the self-concealed, naked Adam among the trees, inasmuch as we hide “from the truth” (1997b, p. 170) or conceal ourselves “in finitude and among the finitudes” to avoid the “glance” of the unconditioned (1990b, p. 113).

[18] Evidently recalling Eremita’s avowal and confusing Eremita with Frater Taciturnus, P. L. Møller advises the latter in a review of Stages on Life’s Way “not to have your [Taciturnus] writings printed, whereby you will obtain what you seem to prize so highly, to have only ‘one reader’” (“To Mr. Frater Taciturnus, Chief of Part Three of Stages on Life’s Way”, Fædrelandet, no. 2079 [December 29, 1845], col. 16665; trans. in Kierkegaard 1982, Suppl., p. 104). Subsequently, Møller proves unable to drop this joke. Two weeks later, in another piece implicated in the initiation of the Corsair affair, he derides Taciturnus for writing “all those thick books” while being “satisfied with ‘one reader’” (The Corsair, no. 278 [January 16, 1846], cols. 2–8; trans. in Kierkegaard 1982, Suppl., p. 120). Cf. the wisecracks about Taciturnus’s “one reader” in the draft of Møller’s unpublished article, “Frater Taciturnus or The Story of the ‘Silent Brother’ Who Could Not Keep Quiet” (trans. in Kierkegaard 1982, Suppl., pp. 105, 107), which was withheld from publication in The Corsair.

[19] Cf. entries of 1844‒45 in Pap. VI B 141; trans. in 1993a, Suppl., p. 127; Pap. VI B 159; trans. in 1993a, Suppl., p. 128; 1967–78, vol. 1, §811 (repr. in 1993a, p. 128 and in 1993b, p. 369); and Pap. VI B 101 (in 1993a, Suppl., pp. 128‒29). Each of these journal entries specifies that the cloth the woman is sewing is for an altar.

[20] I.e., through Paul’s perception of Adam as Christ’s analogue or type (Rom. 5:12‒21; cf. 1 Cor. 15:21–22); and through Matthew’s genealogical presentation of Solomon as a Davidic forebear of Jesus’s (Matt. 1:6–7), Jesus’s own allusion to Solomon as a prefigurative sign of his own coming (Matt. 12:42), and the implication of the first Pastoral Epistle and the Apocalypse that Christ, as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:16), embodies the fulfillment of Israel’s royal lineage.

[21] I.e., those who said: “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (Matt. 27:41‒42; cf. Kierkegaard 1993b, p. 91).

[22] On this linkage elsewhere in Kierkegaard’s writings, see Ziolkowski 2001, pp. 135‒38, 224n.; Ziolkowski 2011, p. 250.

[23] This is the case despite Vigilius Haufniensis’s complaint that the Pauline typal analogy between Adam and Christ “explains nothing at all but confuses everything” and is “conceptually imperfect,” since “Christ alone is an individual who is more than an individual” (1980a, p. 33fn.).

[24] Matt. 6:28‒30; quoted at Kierkegaard 1993b, p. 159. The image of Job with his friends is again evoked in part 3, 1993b, p. 287.

[25] Kierkegaard further elaborates: “…exactly in the same sense as the lily, without working and spinning, is more beautiful than Solomon’s glory; exactly in the same sense, this person [i.e., the worrier], without working, without spinning, without any meritoriousness, is more glorious than Solomon’s glory by being a human being. And the Gospel text does not say that the lily is more glorious than Solomon — no, it says that the lily is better clothed than Solomon in all his glory” (1993b, p. 165).

[26] The same biblical scene is referenced a number of times in several of Kierkegaard’s other writings. See also 1985, p. 33; 1997b, pp. 174, 259; 1991, pp. 39, 76, 102, 170, 204.

[27] Entry of 1847, 1967–78, vol. 5, §5975 (repr. 1993b, Suppl., p. 390): “The tale of the worried lily <…> is clearly humorous. So the entire discussion about being clothed [i.e., 1993b, pp. 187‒94]”.

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