Stumbling on Poetry
- Zachary Sng (Brown University), Susan Bernstein (Brown University)
What did Paul de Man mean when he referred to the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin as the “obvious stumbling-block” of his critical enterprise? What happens when criticism trips over poetry, when poetry and its critique come together in syncopation rather than harmony? We are interested in poetic texts that display intransigence in the face of interpretation, but also in critical texts that open themselves to poetic resistance at the cost of easy containment or mastery. Reflections on not just the catastrophic effect but also the potentially productive dimension of such incommensurabilities are particularly welcome.
Some other questions that might be pursued in individual papers include the following:
- What might an incommensurability between poetry and criticism imply about what Walter Benjamin called the “criticizability” of the art-work? Is it possibility to conceive of a criticizability that renders poetry open but also resistant to critical discourse?
- If a troubled relationship between poetry and criticism also unsettles the possibility of easy intermedial or intersensory exchange, then what meta-critical trope (stumbling, disharmony, blindness, etc.) should one use to figure such relationships?
- Do the questions that we are posing come up with particular urgency when poetry and criticism cross linguistic borders (de Man and Hölderlin, Derrida and Celan, Baudelaire and Benjamin, etc.)? How might translation, taken in the broadest sense, be related to the relationship between poetry and criticism?
We welcome contributions drawn from any period or national literature.