"In This it Moves and Speaks:" Heidegger, Stevens, and Truth's Performance in Poetry

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Title: "In This it Moves and Speaks:" Heidegger, Stevens, and Truth's Performance in Poetry
Author: Bisceglio, Paul
Advisor: Wright, Kathleen; Gangadean, Ashok K.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Philosophy
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2009
Abstract: Focusing on Martin Heidegger's later essay that deals explicitly with the nature of poetry, "The Origin of the Work of Art," and a modest selection of Wallace Stevens's shorter poems, this essay aims to allow Heidegger's and Stevens's deployments of a number of shared terms, namely "obscurity," "listening," "nothingness," and "conflict," to encounter each other and reveal the writers' shared understanding of poetry's performative nature. Performativity, in their view, means that poetry communicates meaning through a dialectic exchange with its reader. Poetry reveals truths that speak beyond the poem's stated propositions, and demands its reader's own performance in attending to its revealing. Poetry, in other words, necessitates a specific kind of reading that refrains from the imposition of meaning and reposefully allows for an encounter with poetic language that transforms the reader's self-understanding. Heidegger and Stevens find this performative exchange essential to resisting falsely universalizing truth propositions because it opens the readet to an attentiveness to his or her specific cultural locality. If we consider critical comparison in light of poetry's performativity, I believe we can abolish most of the comparative anxiety that characterizes critical works on these two writers. An understanding of truth as arising in the local moment of exchange between poem and reader suggests that comparison is only superficial when it aims to maintain the supposed integrity of distinct philosophical and literary traditions. Comparison fails, in other words, when it seeks to impose parallels between two static fields. Comparison succeeds when it promotes a more productive exchange. When engaging disparate works in a generative encounter that exceeds traditional disciplinary boundaries, comparison uncovers new truths, and deepens our understanding of our relation to literature and meaning.
Subject: Truth in literature
Subject: Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976 -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976 -- Contributions in concept of truth
Subject: Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955 -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955 -- Poetry
Subject: Poetry -- Performance
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Bisceglio, Paul. ""In This it Moves and Speaks:" Heidegger, Stevens, and Truth's Performance in Poetry". 2009. Available electronically from

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