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Michael Murray THE CONFLICT BETWEEN POETRY AND LITERATURE While Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur are widely regarded as engaged in a common hermeneutic enterprise, the greater radicality of Heidegger must fracture such a view. This difference shows up in a striking manner in the conflict between the concept of poetry and the concept of literature. After elucidating its significance, I shall explore a new sense of fiction that reinscribes the conflict and invites us to interpret a canto of Wallace Stevens. Let us enter Gadamer's dispute with Heidegger where he declares: "It is true ... I can appeal to the 'transcendental' sense of Heidegger's Being and Time. But where else I call on Heidegger — in that I seek to think 'understanding" as a 'happening7 — [my thought] is turned in an entirely different direction." That direction, Gadamer goes on to explain, arose "out ofthe need for self-clarification that came over me as a philologist and interpreter of philosophical texts." To which he adds trenchantly: "My point of departure is not the complete forgetfulness of Being, the 'night of Being,' rather on the contrary — I say this against Heidegger as well as Buber— the unreality of such an assertion. That also holds good for our relation to the tradition." ' This last statement is directed against the encompassing project of Heidegger's later work, his epochal history ofBeing from Anaximander to Nietzsche. This ontological history or aletheia process is charted in terms of the figure of day and night that come so easily in German where the West is das Abendland. Heidegger hyphenates this name (Abend-land) in order to bring forward its status as land of the evening. The historical 59 60Philosophy and Literature evening in question points us back toward the dawn of the West in early Greek thought, poetry, and life, and to its second weaker beginning in the Classical period, and thence ahead to die darkening ofthe modern world, marked by the flight of the gods, the destruction of the earth, the massification of man, and the resentment of the creative — a darkening that has passed into its night and approaches its midnight now in the age of the Gestell or total framework. As such this time betokens the possibility of a second dawn nourished by the memory of the first, though it cannot be a return. Elsewhere Heidegger elaborates this late modern situation in Hölderlinian terms as the Age between the No Longer and the Not Yet. What is thought by the time of die Between and by the language of the lighting-concealing history-of-Being is, according to Heidegger, what really specifies the hermeneutic situation of modern man, poetry, and society. While Gadamer accepts the nineteenth- and twentieth-century discovery ofhistoricity, and tries to advance insights of Heidegger along with his own to clarify the conditions of humanistic knowledge, he rejects the consummative eschatology of Hegel but no less the catastrophic eschatology of Heidegger. As he emphatically declares: "I do not believe at all that we live Tietween' two worlds. . . . Only the prophet who already sees the promised land would have, in my estimation, the possibility of saying the like. I remember, instead of this, the one world I only know, and which in all decay has lost far less of its evidence and cohesion than it talks itselfinto."2 Of course Heidegger himself insists upon a relation to tradition, reiterated in the asseveration of his later years "that everything essential, everything great arises from man's rootedness in his homeland and tradition."3 Nevertheless, one must say that the revolutionary renewal of Heidegger that presupposes the revolutionary break is not the renewal for which Gadamer speaks. To Ulustrate this divergence of Gadamer from Heidegger we may ponder the concept of the classic. This example occupies an important place in the argument of Truth and Method because the experience of the classic is recognized as combining a genuine historical efficaciousness with a normative significance in the formation of the Western literary tradition (TM, pp. 253ff). In a more recent paper Gadamer explains die "peculiar contemporaneity" that accrues to classic works of literature by reason of tiieir Wirkungsgeschichte or effective-history.* First, they occupy "a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 59-79
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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