What is happening in the space between poetry and philosophy today? The thirteen essays collected in the March 2012 Mosaic special issue take up this question―in thirteen different ways. For example, in one essay, Heidegger’s question, “What is the thing?” is directed to the “thingness” of poetry; another essay reads Mark McMorris’s experimental (postcolonial) poetics alongside the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas; still another reads Erin Mouré’s O Cadoiro with Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever. Plato is brought together with Giorgio Agamben, Wallace Stevens with Roland Barthes, and the poet with the philosopher in Nietzsche’s writing. This is a special issue.
From Sympathy to Empathy: Baudelaire, Vischer, and Early Modernism
Timothy C. Vincent
While often regarded as similar, the difference between sympathetic and empathetic identification is essential in the so-called “expressivist turn” that took place in early modernism. This essay argues that the deep connection between Baudelaire’s rebellion against realism and German aesthetician Robert Vischer’s concept of Einfühlung, or “in-feeling,” has not been explored sufficiently and can shed light on modernism’s distinctive identity and the deep perceptual changes that underscore its innovations.
Beyond, Between, and Otherwise: Mark McMorris’s Postcolonial Poethics
Grant Matthew Jenkins
I read Mark McMorris’s experimental poetry in the historical context that conditioned it. In the 1970s, his native Jamaica underwent profound political change after colonial rule, and McMorris draws intertextually on public discourse involving an ethics of responsibility towards others, which I highlight through the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas.
Lyric Fever: Erin Mouré and the Queer Anatomy of Lyric Life
Isabel A. Moore
This essay reads Erin Mouré’s O Cadoiro with Derrida’s Archive Fever and against lyric criticism’s dream that its genre lives, arguing that Mouré’s work anatomizes the lyric and queers its archive to reveal that it has always been nominal: its singular voice and its proper whole alive in name only.
On the Non-Rivalry Between Poetry and Philosophy: Plato’s Republic, Reconsidered
Revisiting Plato’s Republic in light of the cultural shift from orality to literacy, this essay suggests that Plato is fully aware of myth’s indispensability for logos-oriented culture—of the fact that both poetry and philosophy rely on mythical thinking. This dialogue enables us to think the impossibility of the philosopher’s city, the city that expelled its poets.
An ‘Impossible Science’: Wallace Stevens and the Ecstatic Mind
This essay explores Wallace Stevens’s collection Parts of a World alongside Roland Barthes’s discussion of the paradoxical “absence-as-presence” of the photograph. The collection marks an important transition toward the development of a new space beyond representation in Stevens’s poetry—where the “figure” is revealed to be nothing other than the process of its own figuration.
Falling into Silence: Giorgio Agamben at the End of the Poem
Defining poetry as the potential of enjambment, Giorgio Agamben concludes that the final non-enjambed line of a poem cannot really be “poetry.” My essay explores this poetic state of exception in terms of Agamben’s project of reconciling poetry and philosophy in the face of Plato’s exile.
Time as a Simple/Multiple Melody in Henri Bergson’s Duration and Simultaneity and Gertrude Stein’s Landscape Writing
In 1922, Einstein and Bergson publicly discussed the nature of time. I argue that this debate, which pivoted on the question of whether there is one time or a plurality of times, and especially the phenomenological stance promoted in it by Bergson, makes for an illuminating context against which to read Stein’s 1920s literary thinking on temporality.
Poetic Fact: On Research Questions as Relations of Force
Drawing on Aristotle’s Poetics and Peirce’s philosophy of science, I argue that scholarship comes closest to contemporary creative art at the point at which it generates doubt in prior knowledge, forcefully. Foucault and Auden exemplify this convergence.
Dying Objects/Living Things: The Thingness of Poetry in Yusef Komunyakaa’s Talking Dirty to the Gods
Daniel Cross Turner
Drawing on interdisciplinary work on the significance of cultural artefacts by scholars such as Bill Brown and W.J.T. Mitchell, this essay explores images of things in Komunyakaa’s recent mythopoetic verse while connecting this motif to the thingness of poetry itself, the latent and insistent force of its rhythmic form.
‘To find God in nature’: Thoreau’s Poetics of Natural History
“A history of animated nature must itself be animated,” Thoreau recorded in his Journal in 1850, implying that such histories must animate the imagination of their readers if they are to make any impression on them. Yet, scholars claim that Thoreau ultimately grew disenchanted with figurative modes of representing nature and became more concerned with describing it with painstaking accuracy. I contend otherwise. This essay examines “Autumnal Tints,” written toward the end of his life, as Thoreau’s version of the kind of animated history that could inspire his readers to join him in his lifelong quest “to find God in nature.”
Japanese Poetry and the ‘Pathetic Fallacy’
Carl M. Johnson
Many poems in the tradition of Japanese haiku appear to exhibit what John Ruskin named “the pathetic fallacy.” A proper understanding of the philosophical framework within which these poems were created will show that this charge is unfounded because it relies on an overly stark separation of perceiving subject and perceived object.
Nietzsche’s Poet-Philosopher: Toward a Poetics of Response-ability, Possibility, and the Future
This essay examines the role of the poet in Nietzsche’s prose, focusing on three attributes to Nietzsche’s discussion: the poet and philosopher as single entity; the poet-philosopher’s responsibility for maintaining the ability to respond; and the poet-philosopher’s responsibility for discovering possibilities oriented toward the future.
The Poetic Atheology of Giorgio Agamben: Defining the Scission Between Poetry and Philosophy
By utilizing the work of Giorgio Agamben, this essay examines how the poetic can exist as the last refuge of meaning in an “atheological” world, that is, one without its previous theological justifications.