This contribution to a symposium on “lyric philosophy” argues that there is much in Jan Zwicky's work that should make it attractive to literary critics, in particular her insistence that form and content are inextricably bound up with one another. Lyric compositions should not be assessed by reason and logic alone, she holds, and they should not be understood solely in terms of their propositional content. She acknowledges that full understanding employs the imagination and takes account of metaphor. However, some critics may be less willing to accept Zwicky's suggestion that there is a world, and an experience of the world, that is available to us without linguistic mediation and structuring. This article questions whether there a kind of meaning (the “it” of “Now I get it!”) that can be understood preverbally and intuitively. The discussion concludes with a consideration of Zwicky's comments on Rainer Maria Rilke's sonnet “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” Contrary to her own principles, she offers a prose summary of the poem that does not take account of its lyric form and thereby misses some of its most enigmatic features. Whereas Zwicky would have it that the reader of such a poem can achieve a preverbal intuition of its meaning, the article suggests that, when we attend carefully to the words of the poem, we will be intriguingly perplexed.
Colin Davis; “NOW I GET It!”: The Dogmatic Assurance of Lyric Philosophy. Common Knowledge 1 January 2014; 20 (1): 62–67. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2374880
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