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Martin Heidegger at the Limits of Poetics

David Nowell Smith

Publication Year: 2013

Sounding/Silence charts Heidegger’s deep engagement with poetry, both situating it within the internal dynamics of his thought from Being and Time to his late writings on language, and within the domains of poetics and literary criticism. Heidegger viewed poetics and literary criticism with notorious disdain: he claimed that his Erläuterungen (soundings) of Hölderlin’s poetry were not ‘contributions to aesthetics and literary history’ but rather stemmed ‘from a necessity for thought’, which were concerned with Dichtung, the ‘essence’ of poetry, rather than Poesie, ‘the linguistic work in the narrow sense’. And yet, the questions he poses throughout his work have much in common with those that characterize the discipline of poetics as a whole: the value and significance of prosody and trope; the concept of ‘poetic language’; the relation of language and body; the ‘truth’ of poetry. It is in probing these questions in a singular manner that Heidegger’s thinking attains its significance for poetics. Sounding/Silence offers a more nuanced depiction of the relation between Dichtung and Poesie, where poetry’s technical particularity becomes a crucial moment in its ontological vocation. In this, Nowell Smith argues, in transpires that Heidegger is dependent on the very categories of poetics which he had deemed ‘inessential’. At the limits of poetics, Heidegger also confronts in poetry and poetics a limit to his own thinking. Opening up points of contact between Heidegger’s discussions of poetry with the technical and critical analyses of these poems, Sounding/Silence seeks not only to address a lacuna within Heidegger scholarship, but to probe the relation between philosophy and poetry more broadly. In its final chapters it then moves beyond Heidegger’s own thinking to sketch out a ‘poetics of limit’.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

Note on the text

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pp. xi-xii


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-18

To set up a limit is a dual gesture, at once instituting difference and indicating a point of contact. Martin Heidegger’s critique of the discipline of poetics, a recurrent feature throughout his long engagement with poetry, is just such a gesture. On the one hand, he claims that his own readings of poems or...

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For the First Time

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pp. 19-60

In the introductory remarks to his lecture series on Friedrich Hölderlin’s late hymns “Germanien” and “Der Rhein,” the fi rst he gave on Hölderlin’s poetry, Heidegger discusses the opening lines of “Germanien” and their form: “Th e form of the poem provides no particular diffi culties. Th e meter does not follow the model of any conventional genre. A poem without...

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The Naming Power of the Word

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pp. 61-100

In “Th e Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger situates the earth in the “work-material” of the artwork: “the massiveness and heaviness of the stone, . . . the fi rmness and fl exibility of the wood, . . . the lightening and darkening of color . . . the ringing of sound, and the naming power of the word” (OBT 24/35). Th at Heidegger should place “the word” last...

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Heidegger’s Figures

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pp. 101-136

Given the prominence Heidegger accords to poetry throughout a Gesamtausgabe that now extends to 102 volumes, his discussions of figurative language are, at first glance, most conspicuous for their scarcity. Metaphor in particular is dismissed over four lapidary and categorical pronouncements. If this might be taken to demonstrate that Heidegger was simply...

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Reading Heidegger Reading

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pp. 137-180

Ever since Max Kommerell described an essay of Heidegger’s on Hölderlin’s “Andenken” as “a productive train-wreck” (ein productives Eisenbahn- Unglück),1 Heidegger’s readings of poetry have been subject to a critical skepticism bordering at times on outrage. To an extent this is unsurprising and even, one feels—in the light of his contempt for “the history of literature...

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pp. 181-196

At the end of the last chapter I observed that Heidegger’s readings of poetry are not exegeses but preservations, and moreover, that these preservations become genuine encounters with the poems they read only when they are themselves unable to gauge the shape of this encounter. This led to a paradoxical situation in which Heidegger’s readings are most compelling when...


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pp. 197-222


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pp. 223-232


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pp. 233-238

Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

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pp. 239-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780823251544
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823251537

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy