Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 491–510 | Cite as

Poetry as anti-discourse: formalism, hermeneutics, and the poetics of Paul Celan



I argue from a hermeneutic point of view that formal elements of poetry can only be identified because poetry is based on both the phenomenon and the conception of poetry, both of which precede the attempt to identify formal elements as the defining moment of poetry. Furthermore, I argue with Gadamer that poetry is based on a rupture with and an epoche of our non-poetic use of language in such a way that it liberates “fixed” universal aspects of everyday language, and that through establishing itself in a new, self-referential and monologue unity, it individualizes speech. From the hermeneutic position, poetry is a form of speaking rather than a “fixed” object. As such, I will try to make sense of what Paul Celan said in his famous “Meridian” speech: namely, that the poem is “actualized language, set free under the sign of a radical individuation, which at the same time stays mindful of the limits drawn by language, the possibilities opened by language.”


Celan Ribeiro Gadamer Heidegger Hermeneutics Poetry Language Poetic speech Poetics 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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