- [inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" xlink:href="01i" /]
What is a poem? How is it to be read? These are the recurrent questions that imbue Dimitris Dimiroulis's excellent study, the second of a series published by the author on George Seferis's poetics. Rather than hinge his inquiry on the relationship between aesthetics and politics, which is the subject of his first book, (1997), Dimiroulis delves into seminal issues that highlight the act of interpretation, [End Page 302] challenging the strategies and assumptions that underlie hermeneutic practice in both reading and writing about the poetic text. Whereas traditional interpretation once sought to uncover the "hidden meaning" embedded in the literary text, Dimiroulis's approach treats the interpretive process as a negotiation between text and reader, one that, because of the heterogeneous condition of poetic language itself, does not necessarily have as its ultimate goal a single, verifiable truth to be unveiled. His methodology thus advances aspects of deconstruction, reader-oriented theory, and reception aesthetics as it engages play in textual exegesis, subverts the conventions of literary genre, and reexamines tropes and modes of signification, particularly those of metaphor, mimesis, paradox, and epiphany in his reading of Modern Greek poetry as well as texts that cross historical and national contexts.
Taking what seem to have become the rhetorical platitudes of "revelation" and "discovery" in the terminology of interpretation, Dimiroulis astutely redefines them through a series of meditations on the contradictions that mark the hermeneutic process itself, contradictions embodied in questions he poses at the outset:
What kind of decoding, deciphering, and interpretive unraveling can a text anticipate which aims at the eclectic participation of the reader—at the same moment as it exiles him or her from lucid understanding? What does this preventive gesture plan to avert, which, at the threshold of the poem, declares that it will proceed in the wonder of hermetic language—that which wants to communicate in obscurity, that which introduces its own act of discovery—withdrawn, reserved, almost defeated—maneuvering between the desire to reveal more than it entrusted to writing and the fear of being entrapped in the dim light of its symbolism?(p. 15– 16; all translations are mine)
Dimiroulis foregrounds not merely modes of revelation, remembrance, and insight, but also concomitant oppositions of concealment, forgetfulness, and blindness that come into play in the process of interpreting a text. Such contradictions reveal the limitations set by language in the practice of reading or writing, limitations that inevitably, in each attempt, resist the attainment of total understanding. The study offers a thoughtful variation to what Hans-Georg Gadamer has stated in regard to the problem of language and understanding: "All understanding is interpretation, and all interpretation takes place in the medium of a language that allows the object to come into words and yet is at the same time the interpreter's own language" (Truth and Method, New York: Continuum, 1998, p. 389).
Placed alongside the proliferation of prose narrative theories in recent decades, this study serves as an exemplary model for an analysis of poetics and the rhetorical strategies contained therein. It addresses a need within the present state of literary criticism on Modern Greek poetry: to unearth the aesthetic value of the poetic text and to assess lyricism on its own terms rather than view it solely as a medium to convey the poet's sensibility or to verify incidents from his life experience. Dimiroulis replenishes the spring of interpretive language by drawing from its most obvious—but often neglected—source: [End Page 303] the very language of poetic expression, an eloquent gesture that by its premise wards off the staid abstractionism of the many theoretical approaches that have dominated discussion in literary studies with the advent of post-structuralism.
Inspired by the title of Seferis's (1965), the main subject of Dimiroulis's analysis, the author carefully lays out his interpretive framework. Initially, he explores the literal and figurative meanings of the word (secret), which he differentiates from the word (hidden). The...