Abstract

This essay addresses the question of lying in the lyric with reference to both canonical and lesser-known works by Rilke, including several of his relatively neglected poems in French. Taking as a point of departure Rilke’s late lyric “Mensonges,” the essay proceeds via a series of close readings to formulate his poetics of lies and deception in positive terms. Special attention is given to the relationship of fraudulence to lyric form, animation, and praise. Ultimately, Rilke’s lesson is not to lie more but to lie better. Thus he puts on display a fundamental lyric operation: From its inception as counter-mythology, presupposing the existence of myth that it can either affirm or critique, the lyric does not present an alternative between enchantment and disenchantment but rather—in negotiating between the two—shows us the agency we have in fashioning our enchantments as well as our embarrassments.

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