In listening as in speaking,
both meaningfulness and meaning are at stake.
To trace the lines of reciprocity through which they are
established is to map a social space, a community.
(Lyn Hejinian)


Poetry, according to W.H. Auden, fundamentally is ‘memorable language’. From Sappho onwards, a defining feature of poetic language appears to be its repeatability. In his seminal Theory of the Lyric (2015), Jonathan Culler challenges Theodor W. Adorno’s claim that lyric poetry, in its utopian force, offers resistance to the language of commerce and alienation, as well as Jacques Rancière’s declaration that ‘[t]he poet belongs to politics as one who does not belong there, who ignores its customs and scatters its words.’

For Culler, the very fact that a lyric poem is meant to be repeated by different readers in a variety of contexts implies that it can be put to quite different uses and enlisted in conflicting ideological projects. On the other hand, poetry seems to play a peculiar role in French and French-oriented political philosophy, especially in reflections on community formation, exemplified in the famous exchange between Maurice Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy begun in the 1980s. This event will discuss the possible relationships between lyric and society and question whether lyric poetry could contribute, if not to the reformation of society, at least to the formation of (minority, resistant) communities based on the enactment and reenactment of particular poems.

In English

Jonathan Culler

Organized by

Francesco Giusti

An ICI Event in cooperation with the
‘Re-’ Interdisciplinary Network (CRASSH, Cambridge)

No registration required. Free admission and open to the public. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.