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18 Pages

Don Juan (Don Giovanni): Seduction and its Absolute Medium in Music

ByJacobo Zabalo

As the main character of Mozart’s famous opera, Don Giovanni is mentioned by the Spanish name-Don Juan-in several of Kierkegaard’s works, especially in those that belong to the production that he designated as aesthetic (in his retrospective overview, The Point of View of My Work as an Author). The presence of Don Juan is most evident in the first part of Either/Or, a part of which is mysteriously assigned to the pseudonym “A,” and composed of very different pieces, including “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical-Erotic.” There is no other text in which Kierkegaard’s insights on this literary figure are so explicit and detailed. This figure represents not only a character but an existential behavior, a way of relating to the world by an individual deeply interested in the sensual fulfillment of the self, in the realization of an understanding based on immediate perception and pleasure. “Sensuous immediacy has its absolute medium in music,”1 states Kierkegaard’s aesthetic pseudonym. The individual experience of music, as much as the coincidence of content and form in a sensuous movement, makes Don Giovanni a classic work according to Kierkegaard,2 who also believes that its main topic, that is, seduction, cannot be alien to any listener who finds in music a satisfying, aesthetic experience. Kierkegaard’s literary actualization of the myth is Johannes the Seducer, whose journal comes at the end of the first volume of Either/Or. Johannes can be seen as a re-creation of the Don Juan figure, which in its Kierkegaardian redoubling offers to the reader an equivocal, intriguing approach to the experience of passion.