Speaking about Poetry
In his 1952 essay »Lyrik und lyrisch« [Lyric and Lyrical], Emil Staiger writes »It has long been impossible to establish the laws of genre for lyrical poetry«, a bold statement on poetry in general, but also on the debate surrounding poetry after the Second World War. While Staiger focuses on the difference between »lyric« und »lyrical« and thereby opens up new ways of defining poetry, if not of developing entirely new laws for the genre, the poet Paul Celan draws attention to these issues through his poems. Theodor W. Adorno’s claim about the impossibility of writing poems after Auschwitz, which appears in his 1949 essay »Cultural Criticism and Society«, is certainly one of the most radical statements on the status of poetry after the Second World War. The discussion of poetry in the ensuing years was further fueled by famous authors such as Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan and Gottfried Benn, as well as through institutionalized forums like the Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics that have been taking place regularly since the winter semester of 1959/1960.
The aim of the doctoral project “Speaking on Poetry” is to analyze the ambivalent relationship between poetry and rhetoric in the 20th and 21st centuries. To this end, the project not only analyzes rhetorical stylistic devices and the rejection of them in poetry, but also examines talk about poetry following WWII as discussed by Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Paul Celan, Gottfried Benn, and especially in the Frankfurt Lectures. This dissertation project further seeks to problematize the relationship between speaker and audience, which becomes complicated when speaking about poetry, as speaking itself becomes part of the problem. Questions about the rhetoricity of poetry and who is addressing whom in poetry and in discussions about it only provoke more questions about communication and its limits, for example, in terms of educational situations and the very comprehensibility of that which is communicated.