Poetic Force: Poetry after Kant (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)

Poetic Force: Poetry after Kant (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 0804791007

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This book argues that the theory of force elaborated in Immanuel Kant's aesthetics (and in particular, his theorization of the dynamic sublime) is of decisive importance to poetry in the nineteenth century and to the connection between poetry and philosophy over the last two centuries. Inspired by his deep engagement with the critical theory of Walter Benjamin, who especially developed this Kantian strain of thinking, Kevin McLaughlin uses this theory of force to illuminate the work of three of the most influential nineteenth-century writers in their respective national traditions: Friedrich Hölderlin, Charles Baudelaire, and Matthew Arnold. The result is a fine elucidation of Kantian theory and a fresh account of poetic language and its aesthetic, ethical, and political possibilities.















Benjamin says, “the more deeply it is understood, [courage] becomes less a quality than a relation of man to world and of world to man.” Courage is not a “property,” but a force—“a€spiritual principle” to which living responds (GS 2.1: 123; SW 1: 33). Becoming receptive to the moving force of an image that does not affect us cognitively calls for poetic courage: the courage of a poetic relation to the world that is liberated from what Benjamin characterizes, in another early essay on the “coming

rule that applies strictly to “ordinary selves”: The Puritan’s great danger is that he imagines himself in possession of a rule telling him the unum necessarium, or one thing needful, and that he then remains satisfied with a very crude conception of what this rule really is and what it tells him, thinks he has now knowledge and henceforth needs only to act, and, in this dangerous state of selfassurance and self-satisfaction, proceeds to give full swing to a number of instincts of his ordinary

the latter (Lectures, 19). Alluding to the observation in the Phaedo that “a philosopher’s life is like dying,” Arendt depicts the position of the philosopher as follows: The true philosopher does not accept the conditions under which life has been given to man. This is not just a whim of Plato, and not just hostility to the body. It is implicit in Parmenides’ trip to the heavens to escape “the opinions of mortals” and the delusions of sense experience, and it is implicit in Heraclitus’

association, from the church to the common association” in that it is not “based in its constitution on the demand for the unconditional validation of ideal norms. . . . It belongs to the essence and the spirit of reason of state rather,” Meinecke continues, “that it must repeatedly dirty itself with the violation of ethics and law, indeed alone through the seemingly inevitable means of war, which in spite of all legal forms in which it can be dressed up signifies natural conditions breaking

Benjamin is something very different from the familiar conception; indeed, it is something unheard-of. Image, as used here, signifies not the illustrative depiction of an external object. Rather, as something to be read rather than merely seen, the image is construed by Benjamin as both disjunctive and medial in its structure—which is to say, as both actual and virtual at the same time. Such images become a point of convergence, which Benjamin here designates as “now.” This now coexists with the

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