Friday, September 08, 2006

Little Heidegger Bit on "Poetry"

I came upon this as I was surfing around this morning. I've always been somewhat interested in Heidegger. Here's the last bit of the paper I came across (link to full text is at the bottom). As it seems obvious to me that poetry is not communication, it always comes as a surprise when people think of it that way. This rather basic (even reductive) version of Heidegger is, therefore, useful:

Heidegger's writings constantly remind his readers that relating to language as a gift that can lead to thinking is central to a worthy human existence. Repeatedly, in writings that have little to do with poetry, he exposes his belief that language is much more than a means of communication and assertion. He frequently emphasizes the significance of adopting a more profound, more worthy attitude to language. For instance, in a series of lectures on Aristotle's Metaphysics, Heidegger pointed out:

The human being "has the word"; it is the way he makes known to himself his being, and the way in which he sees himself placed in the midst of beings as a whole.... To be empowered with language --; language, however, not merely as a means of asserting and communicating, which indeed it also is, but language as that wherein the openness and conversance of world first of all bursts forth and is. Language, therefore, originally and authentically occurs in poetry... -- however, not poetry in the sense of the work of writers, but poetry as the proclamation of world in the invocation of god. But nowadays we see language primarily from the point of view of what we call conversation and chitchat; conventional philology is in accord with this.

This passage again suggests that to teach poetry in accordance with Heidegger's insights means developing a different relation to language, whereby language is not just a means of asserting and communicating. Pupils and students can be shown that through reading and listening to great poems you can relate to language "as that wherein the openness and conversance of world first of all bursts forth and is." Heidegger would probably advise the teacher to point out to students how great poetry can assist each person to consider language as a source of perceiving beings and relating to Being from new perspectives. The teacher should indicate that listening to the Saying of great poetry is a manner of dwelling upon earth. Such has nothing to do with the accepted approach which views poetry as a manner of appealing to the reader's or the listener's aesthetic feelings. Heidegger would also probably hold that once the students can, at least partially, adopt such a relationship to language they will find themselves in the neighborhood of thinking. In that neighborhood, a person can often glean wisdom from great poetry.

You can read all of this interesting paper at:

http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Cont/ContGord.htm

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