Poetry as Perjury: The end of art in broch’s Der Tod des Vergil and Celan’s Atemwende

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IF IT HAS BEEN THE FATE OF POETRY to be defeated, marginalized, and lorded over by philosophy, we could map the history of modernist literature between two decrees against art - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's thesis that art works have lost their power and capacity to fulfill humanity's highest needs and Theodor Adorno's pronouncement that it is barbaric to write poetry after Auschwitz. It is of course between the time of these two proclamations that art in Europe embarked upon a period of unprecedented formal innovation and that poetry in particular shattered received conventions of rhetoric and syntax. Hegel's idea of the end of art is less a categorical denunciation of art-works for posing a threat to the notion of truth and the good life, the view that underpins Socrates' proposal in Plato's Politeia to banish the poets from the just state, than the assertion of the primacy of speculative reason in grasping the highest stages of historical consciousness. Adorno's stricture, on the other hand, stands as an ethical injunction. For it is the moral legitimacy of art that is now at stake - its very right to exist in the wake of the barbarism of war and genocide. If art does come to an end, it is because it has been radically outbid by the devastations of history. Measured against the reality of suffering, art is both inadequate and incapable of giving voice to horror and agony, or is complicit in it.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHermann Broch, Visionary in Exile
Subtitle of host publicationThe 2001 Yale Symposium
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781571136312
ISBN (Print)9781571132727
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jan 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2003 by the Editors and Contributors. All Rights Reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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