Post-Critical Poiesis and Thinking

  • John Llewelyn


From the middle of the 1930s Heidegger’s thinking of the belonging together of Dasein and Sein becomes a thinking of the belonging together of the thinker and the poet, especially the poet of poets Hölderlin who mourns the separation of the gods from their templum and temenos, the holy precinct set apart. But for this poet the time of mourning the departed gods is a time of prayerful waiting for the new. It is a between-time in which the poet who mediates between the immortals and the mortals awaits a second coming with a presentiment of a presence that will inaugurate another epoch of the history of being that will be discontinuously continuous with an earlier, though it may take a reflective thinker to recognise this. Even Hölderlin, Heidegger maintains, was unaware of the force of the primal word phusis and hence was not trying to recapture that force in the word Nature, the name he invoked for the light which, since what the poet invokes itself puts the poet under an obligation to say it, Hölderlin also called the holy.


Original Thinking Middle Voice Sensuous Experience Reflective Thinker Immemorial Past 
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  15. Given the mention this epigraph makes of respiration and given the importance of the metaphor of breathing in Emmanuel Levinas’s work, it is intriguing to discover that his son, the distinguished pianist and composer Michaël Levinas, has written a piece for amplified bass flute called ‘Arsis and Thesis’ and that in the note for the programme which he and other members of the group L’Itinéraire presented at the Edinburgh Festival in 1989 he writes that arsis and thesis, terms to describe the rise and fall of a musical phrase in Gregorian plainsong, are ‘firstly inhalation and exhalation’. He says that the piece is ‘a song of human breathing... inspired by listening to the breathing of the ill (see also the death of the grandmother in Le côté de Guermantes...)’. Speaking of this vent de crise as oxygen is administered to the grandmother, Marcel records: ‘ma grand’mère semblait nous adresser un long chant heureux qui remplissait la chambre, rapide et musical... Peut-être à l’haleine, insensible comme celle du vent dans la flûte d’un roseau, se mêlait-il dans ce chant quelques-uns de ces soupirs plus humains qui, libérés à l’approche de la mort, font croire à des impressions de souffrance ou de bonheur chez ceux qui déjà ne sentent plus, et venaient ajouter un accent plus mélodieux, mais sans changer son rhythme, a cette longue phrase qui s’élevait, montait encore, puis retombait pour s’élancer de nouveau de la poitrine allégée, à la poursuite de l’oxygène’. Although, like Marcel in this long sentence, Michaël Levinas is speaking of human breath, he also says ‘An instrument must breathe like a singer’. He is speaking of course of the flute. But would it be complete nonsense to say this of an instrument like a hammer? It could be an interim metaphor through which to say that an instrument should not be treated only as an instrument, but also as an end in itself. Interim, because to treat an instrument as a human being to the end is not to treat it as an end in itself. See Postface. 14. Maurice Blanchot, ‘L’étrange et l’étranger’, Nouvelle revue française, 12 (1958) p. 673. For a finely nuanced discussion of this essay and of the relationship between Blanchot and Levinas see Paul Davies, ‘Difficult Friendship’, Research in Phenomenology XVIII (1988) pp. 149–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© John Llewelyn 1991

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  • John Llewelyn

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