Divine Suspense: On Kierkegaard's Frygt og Bæven and the Aesthetics of Suspense

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


What does it mean to feel suspense? What kinds of situations give rise to the emotion? What is the connection between suspense and narrativity? And how is it that we can feel suspense upon repeat encounters with the same narrative? These questions are at the center of the first part of this study, where I develop and defend the ‘imminence theory of suspense’. Central to this theory is the claim that suspense arises in situations defined by imminence, by the fact that they are structurally incomplete but geared toward their possible future completion: in other words, situations in which something of essence is imminent. Next, the study seeks to utilize this theory about suspense as an interpretative key to Søren Kierkegaard’s work Frygt og Bæven (‘FB’). FB is an exploration of what it means to take Abraham, as he figures in the story of Abraham and Isaac, as a paradigmatic example of faith. The present study argues that a core feature of how Kierkegaard / Silentio conceptualizes faith through the figure of Abraham is suspense. The argument is built upon the observation that to have faith is to be a certain kind of hero: a knight of faith. To be hero means to belong to a story. Stories contain different kinds of conceptualizations of time: for example, they are openended or they are closed. Abraham’s story, as FB frames it, is radically openended – radically geared towards something imminent, hence suspense. The study then explores how suspense not only forms part of the conceptualization of faith in FB, but is also part of how this conceptualization is communicated; thus, the study argues that there exists a symmetry of suspense between the rhetorical and the conceptual levels of the text.


  • Andreas Engh Seland
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies


  • Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Philosophy of Religion, Aesthetics, Suspense, Paradox of Suspense, Faith, Narrativity, Mikhail Bakhtin
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Erica Appelros, Supervisor
  • Mjaaland, Marius Timmann, Supervisor, External person
Award date2016 Dec 9
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University (Media-Tryck)
Print ISBNs978-91-88473-08-0
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Nov
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2016-12-09 Time: 14:15 Place: C126, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Pattison, George Title: professor Affiliation: University of Glasgow, Skottland ---