Poetry as Dark Precursor: Nietzschean Poetics in Deleuze's "Literature and Life"

Philosophy Today 62 (1):235-251 (2018)
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The present article utilizes the Nietzschean “poetics” distilled from Nietzsche’s Gay Science as an interpretive strategy for considering Deleuze’s essay “Literature and Life” in Essays Critical and Clinical. The first section considers Deleuze’s overarching project in that essay, and then repositions his thought from literature in general to “poetry” in particular, indicating both resonances between Deleuze’s understanding of “literature” and Nietzsche’s understanding of “poetry” as well as their dissonances. The second section focuses on the places in Deleuze’s analyses where he excludes poetry, and suggests that this exclusion is related to Nietzsche’s claim that lyric poetry is the birthplace of philosophy. Put differently, the being of lyric poetry threatens to disrupt Deleuze’s distinction between the respective roles and powers of philosophy and art, and thereby to disclose poets as, at least potentially, philosophers, and vice versa. And the final section offers one of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus as an exemplar of poetry’s philosophical potential, before concluding that a Nietzschean conception of poetry constitutes the “dark precursor” of “Literature in Life,” Essays Critical and Clinical, and Deleuze’s work in general.
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