A world-renowned center for the study of Kierkegaard – St. Olaf College

Busts of Howard and Edna Hong feature prominently in the Hong Kierkegaard Library’s new location at Steensland Hall. Photo by Evan Pak ’19

The Hong Kierkegaard Library serves as the official worldwide repository for books by and about Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish theologian and philosopher widely regarded as the first existentialist. With a collection that comprises some 19,000 volumes, it is the largest collection of writings by and about Kierkegaard outside of Denmark.

The work of nearly 95% of the world’s leading Kierkegaard scholars has been informed by the Hong Kierkegaard Library. Each summer, approximately 50 scholars from around the world come to the St. Olaf College campus to conduct research. The Hong Kierkegaard Library also welcomes 20 senior or recent undergraduate college and university graduates every July as part of the Young Scholars program. And a Danish language course is offered each summer, allowing scholars to examine smaller phrases and passages in Kierkegaard’s native language.

Edna and Howard Hong, founders of the Hong Kierkegaard Library.
Edna and Howard Hong, founders of the Hong Kierkegaard Library.

So how did St. Olaf come to be home to a world-renowned center for the study of Kierkegaard? The library foundation is built on the private collection of former students of St. Olaf Howard ’34 and Edna Hatlestad Hong ’38. Howard Hong taught in the university’s philosophy department for 40 years, and together the pair spent decades collecting a huge body of literature by and about Kierkegaard. They became internationally recognized for their work in translating most of Kierkegaard’s published writings and reviews from Danish into English, winning the National Book Award in 1968. The Hongs donated their collection to St. Olaf in 1976, and the Hong Kierkegaard Library was born.

The collection has not stagnated since that initial donation, growing and improving ever since. In August 2021, the Hong Kierkegaard Library received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help restore 100 rare books held in the collection that were printed before 1856.

This spring, St. Olaf named Anna Louise Strelis Söderquist the new curator of the Hong Kierkegaard Library.

St. Olaf Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Gordon Marino has been curator of the collection since 1995. He has published books on existentialism and articles in publications such as New York Times Review and the wall street journal. Thanks to a generous donation from Krestie Utech ’59, the lower level of the new library space has been dedicated to Marino, who will retire in August 2022.

This spring, St. Olaf named Anna Louise Strelis Söderquist the new curator of the Hong Kierkegaard Library. Söderquist earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research and has taught courses on Kierkegaard’s work around the world, including at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center in Copenhagen. Additionally, she has presented philosophy conferences on several continents, including the International Kierkegaard Conference held at St. Olaf’s.

“Kierkegaard’s work still has a burning relevance for us today, wherever we live and whatever our origins, for he meets his reader in the depths within, where the personal, yet universal, questions about whom l ‘we are and how we should live,’ she said. said.

Kierkegaard’s work is always relevant to us, wherever we live and whatever our origins, because he meets his reader in the inner depths, where the personal, but universal questions about who we are reside. and how we should live.Anna Louise Strelis Soderquist

K. Brian Söderquist has been appointed to the college’s new Kierkegaard Chair of Christian Philosophy.

When Söderquist arrives at St. Olaf to assume her role as curator, she will be joined by her husband, K. Brian Söderquist, who has been appointed to the college’s new Kierkegaard Chair of Christian Philosophy. This chair was created in 2021 to advance research and publications concerning the writings of Kierkegaard and Christian philosophy.

Söderquist earned his Ph.D. of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center at the University of Copenhagen and has lectured on Kierkegaard’s work in Denmark for over two decades.

Learn more about the newly renovated space that houses the Hong Kierkegaard Library in St. Olaf’s accompanying magazine article, “The Storied History of Steensland Hall.”

Comments are closed.