Theses Doctoral

Toward a Poetics of Animality: Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Pirandello, Kafka

Driscoll, Kári

Toward a Poetics of Animality is a study of the place and function of animals in the works of four major modernist authors: Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Rainer Maria Rilke, Luigi Pirandello, and Franz Kafka. Through a series of close readings of canonical as well as lesser-known texts, I show how the so-called "Sprachkrise"- the crisis of language and representation that dominated European literature around 1900 - was inextricably bound up with an attendant crisis of anthropocentrism and of man's relationship to the animal. Since antiquity, man has been defined as the animal that has language; hence a crisis of language necessarily called into question the assumption of human superiority and the strict division between humans and animals on the basis of language. Furthermore, in response to author and critic John Berger's provocative suggestion that "the first metaphor was animal" I explore the essential and constantly reaffirmed link between animals and metaphorical language. The implication is that the poetic imagination and the problem of representation have always on some level been bound up with the figure of the animal. Thus, the "poetics of animality" I identify in the authors under examination gestures toward the origin of poetry and figurative language as such.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Anderson, Mark M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 11, 2014