Speaking/Speeches About Poetry

Theodor W. Adorno’s alleged verdict on the impossibility of writing poems after Auschwitz is certainly one of the most radical statements on the state of poetry after the Second World War. “It is no longer possible to determine the genre laws of poetry,” writes Emil Staiger in 1952. While the literary scholar is trying to establish new possibilities of defining poetry by introducing the differentiation between “lyric” and “lyrical,” Paul Celan is constantly trying to eliminate such attributions with his poems. The discussion about the possibilities of poetry in the following years is further fueled not only by famous authors such as Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, and Gottfried Benn, but also by institutionalized forums such as the Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics, which has been held regularly since the winter semester of 1959/1960. The format follows the example of the traditional “Chairs of Poetry” from England and the USA. However, unlike those models, the first lecture series on poetics in Germany is established with the hope of being able to tackle and clarify ethical and aesthetic questions.

The aim of the doctoral project with the working title Speaking/Speeches About Poetry was to highlight the special role of (lyrical) poets in the history of the Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics. Rather than writing the literary history of this specific lecture series, the work focused on general questions about the form of speeches on poetry within the lectures on poetics. Their status oscillates between orality and writing, and is thus in a special tension with its lyrical subject. Therefore, the thesis examined the handling of the “lyrical I” in poetic practices as well as in subject theories that are bound to language, which also touch on the format of the lectures on poetics. What is particularly revealing is the contrast between the attempt of modern poetry after 1945 to banish the lyrical I and, by extension, supposedly any ideology from poetry, and the increasing presence of the author in public space. Finally, the dissertation dealed with questions of addressing, which are provoked by the term “lecture,” but are merely unwillingly fulfilled by the lecturers.

Elsa-Neumann-Scholarship of the State of Berlin 2016–2018, Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2019 2016–2019
Head researcher(s): Insa Braun


19 Apr 2018 · 1.15 pm

Insa Braun: »Ich ohne Gewähr«. The Absent Subject in Ingeborg Bachmann’s Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics

Yale University, Department of German, William L. Harkness Hall (WLH), 100 Wall St, New Haven, CT 06511 (USA), Room 309

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