Rilke’s Semiotic Potential

American Journal of Semiotics 18 (1-4):159-172 (2002)
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This article demonstrates how a new reading of Rilke’s poetry can provide a basis for comparing and contrasting the aesthetic approach to art and the language-based approach that foregrounds the role of metaphor and materiality in literary production. Lessing’s Laocoön is discussed in terms of an implied dialogue between painting and poetry, which, however, acquires a different valence when the Fifth of Rilke’s Duino Elegies suggests that poetry itself functions as a ‘metaphorical hypoicon’ allowing for shared meanings. My concluding remarks emphasize the importance of the performing self to a complete understanding of Rilke’s semiotic potential.

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William Melaney
American University in Cairo


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