Between Word and Image: Heidegger, Klee, and Gadamer on Gesture and Genesis

Between Word and Image: Heidegger, Klee, and Gadamer on Gesture and Genesis

Between Word and Image: Heidegger, Klee, and Gadamer on Gesture and Genesis

Between Word and Image: Heidegger, Klee, and Gadamer on Gesture and Genesis

Synopsis

Engagement with the image has played a decisive role in the formulation of the very idea of philosophy since Plato. Identifying pivotal moments in the history of philosophy, Dennis J. Schmidt develops the question of philosophy's regard of the image in thinking by considering painting--where the image most clearly calls attention to itself as an image. Focusing on Heidegger and the work of Paul Klee, Schmidt pursues larger issues in the relationship between word, image, and truth. As he investigates alternative ways of thinking about truth through word and image, Schmidt shows how the form of art can indeed possess the capacity to change its viewers.

Excerpt

Four sets of questions gave birth and shape to this book.

The proximate and most specific of these questions was occasioned by the publication of a large portion of Heidegger’s “Notes on Klee.” Those fragmentary notes, which Heidegger made during a visit in 1956 to an exhibition of Paul Klee’s paintings, express a great excitement about Klee’s work. It was an excitement that seemed unbridled and that would last for some years. So, for instance, three years after that first encounter with Klee’s work, Heidegger wrote a letter to his friend Heinrich Petzet in which he emphasized the originality and radicality of Klee’s work: “Something which we all have not yet even glimpsed has come forward in [Klee’s works].” And it is clear that Heidegger’s enthusiasm for Klee had a great philosophical significance for him: he even spoke with friends of the need to revise or to write a “counterpart to” “The Origin of the Work of Art” in light of what he saw in Klee, and in 1960 he promised a seminar on Klee, Heraclitus, Augustine, and Chuang-tzu. The impact upon Heidegger of discovering Klee’s paintings and of reading his theoretical writings was great, and the consequences of this discovery were not simply to confirm Heidegger’s own views but to change them. Indeed, Heidegger’s acknowledgment of Klee’s accomplishments constituted a reversal of his earlier sweeping condemnations of modern art as nothing more than the reflex of a technologically defined world. But it was not just Klee’s painted works that gripped Heidegger; rather, Klee was a prolific writer, and his written texts were as esteemed by Heidegger as his painterly works. Just as Heidegger had found in Friedrich Hölderlin his poet, so too was it the case that during the years of his engagement with Klee he found his painter. Importantly, both Hölderlin and Klee were artists who were capable of theorizing the achievement of the work of art from out of the experience of that work. This capacity for theoretical reflection distinguishes most all of the artists to whom Heidegger turns in his discussion of the work of art and, as such, serves as a reminder not only that the work of art is worth attending to but also that there is a form of reflection that emerges out of the experience of the artist that is of genuine philosophical importance.

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