The Specular Moment: Goethe's Early Lyric and the Beginnings of Romanticism

The Specular Moment: Goethe's Early Lyric and the Beginnings of Romanticism

The Specular Moment: Goethe's Early Lyric and the Beginnings of Romanticism

The Specular Moment: Goethe's Early Lyric and the Beginnings of Romanticism

Synopsis

Using his sovereign knowledge of contemporary critical theory, the author here provides a fresh understanding of Goethe's new poetic discourse, and analyses its semiological, discursive, and hermeneutic features.

Excerpt

Perhaps the most intractable problem the critic dealing with lyric poetry faces is that the object of study resists, by virtue of its discursive constitution, the very project of critical construction. the lyric is a momentary and, as it were, aphoristic form, a rupture of the world of continuous speech. Criticism, however, aspires to discursive continuity, be this in the form of argument (systematic linkage) or narrative (historical linkage). Hence the critic's dilemma: either respect the singularity of the lyric text and thereby abandon the critical project of narrative-argumentative synthesis or work toward establishing such synthesis and thereby occlude the movement of self-differentiation that distinguishes every lyric text of merit. the lyric, tendentiously stated, is the genre of contingency, and of contingency, as Aristotle noted, there can be no science.

The solution to this dilemma is not to solve it at all; to accept it as a constitutive dilemma and stretch critical discourse between its horns. the first chapter drew a historical-systematic picture, moved in the direction of abstraction, and only at the end briefly focused on the specific dynamics of the two texts by Goethe that provided its occasion. the results are easily summarized: Goethe's lyric innovation derives from and transforms idyllic intimacy, constitutes a specifically lyric intimacy as the movement toward the Source of both poetry and subjectivity, figures this Source as the specular exchange with the beloved/addressee, but in the very statement of this exchange fissures the originary unity with the difference internal to articulation. To compensate any compression in that reading, this chapter attends, with a certain drive toward technical precision, to a single text by Goethe, a text contemporary with the two previously discussed. the . . .

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