Volume 56 Issue 4, Winter 2013, pp. 434-456


This essay asks what it means to read literature with philosophy and argues that we should discover the literary work’s own concepts before engaging it in a dialogue with philosophy. The essay also considers the vexed question of whether Hedda Gabler should be read as a “woman’s play” or, rather, as a critique of modernity. With reference to Simone de Beauvoir, it argues that this “choice” is itself an example of a sexist logic. By paying close attention to Hedda’s three significant silences, the essay shows that Hedda chooses to place herself in Judge Brack’s power, that the play’s key concerns are modernity, subjectivity, and meaning, and that its key concepts are silence, hiddenness, disgust, triviality, beauty, freedom, despair, and suicide. The essay ends by relating Hedda Gabler to Kierkegaard’s The Sickness unto Death, before returning to the question of the role of philosophy in literary readings.