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On the Misery of Theory without Poetry: Heidegger's Reading of Hölderlin's “Andenken”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


The article considers the tendency among young theorists to forget or repress poetry. As symptom, the aberrant dissociation of poetry from theory reflects an increasing technicization, not to say impoverishment, of critical language. The theoretical elders, on the other hand, clung to poetic insight with the urgency of hunger. Focusing on tropes of greeting, celebration, and sending, I explore an exemplary instance in the encounter between poetry and thought—when Heidegger met Hölderlin. Still, Heidegger's appropriation of poetry leaves a violent residue, a kind of critical warping that has remained largely uninterrogated. I turn to a moment in the unprecedented testimony of Hölderlin's late thought in which the poet names the modern experience of mourning. While Heidegger's later work appears to be characterized by a similar tonality of mourning, Hölderlin's thought of finitude is often more joyous and affirmative. I zero in on the figure of “dark-skinned women” in the poem “Andenken” to show how philosophy is tripped up by the permanent insurrection that poetry conducts.

Research Article
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2005

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