Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kirsch, Adam. "The Taste of Silence [on Heidegger's "The Origin of the Work of Art"]." POETRY (January 2008).

Today, Heidegger's name is most often heard in debates about his collaboration with the Nazis. Though he lived from 1889 to 1976, his life and work must be judged by his behavior during the early thirties, when the Nazi Party came to power with a promise to renew the German spirit. Because this was also Heidegger's goal—in a different, but not unrelated sense—he was happy to add his intellectual prestige to the Nazi cause, serving as rector of his university under the new government. He was soon disillusioned with Hitler, but he never fully came to grips with his catastrophic moral and intellectual failure. It was left to writers in our own time, like Richard Wolin and Charles Bambach, to show the full implications of Heidegger's Nazism for his immensely influential work. Even in "The Origin of the Work of Art," the dark affinities of Heidegger's thought can be traced. (Indeed, the essay began as a lecture that Heidegger delivered in Freiburg in 1935, in the third year of Hitler's regime.) Yet it is not surprising that poets should continue to turn to Heidegger for inspiration and guidance. For Heidegger, more than any other philosopher, looked to poetry as a model of what thinking should be. He used individual poems, especially the hymns of Hölderlin, to help explicate his own ideas about nature, technology, art, and history. He constantly dwelled on the mysteries of language and translation, how the way we name things can reveal and conceal their essence. And he himself approached writing in a poetic spirit. We usually think of philosophy, especially German philosophy, as being written in dry, awkward jargon. But Heidegger's writing, though difficult, is deeply creative: he uses nouns as verbs and verbs as nouns, puns on etymologies, and even plays with spelling, all in an effort to jar the reader out of conventional ways of reading and thinking. . . . Read the rest here:

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