- The Poetry of Thought
This is not Steiner’s magnum opus; but then, it is a late work. It traverses familiar ground, often evoking its textual landmarks with extreme concision. Each chapter exhibits a certain unity but derived from organizing principles so various (and elaborated at such variable length and intensity) that the book barely attains a roughly chronological integrity. Thematically, its asserted focus on style’s shaping role in philosophical programs repeatedly shifts toward poetry’s substantial presence in philosophical texts; its advertised investigations of the poetic dimensions of thought persistently veer toward thinking as a preoccupation of literature; and its claims more often read like markers for work than records of it (each another of its author’s unwritten books). And yet . . . every so often, the canonical cultural cards are reshuffled so as to forge and elaborate connections (concerning Hegel’s resistance to intelligibility or Wittgenstein’s outsideness to English) that make it impossible to regret the labor of reading Steiner’s book. [End Page 139]
Stephen Mulhall is professor of philosophy at Oxford University and a fellow of New College. His books include The Wounded Animal: J. M. Coetzee and the Difficulty of Reality in Literature and Philosophy; Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary; The Conversation of Humanity; Philosophical Myths of the Fall; On Film; and several books on Wittgenstein and Heidegger.