Explorations in elegiac space: Schiller, Nietzsche, Rilke.

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Abbott, Robert Charles, Jr.
Description:248 p.
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330.
URL for this record:http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/10168473
Hidden Bibliographic Details
Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago.
Notes:Advisor: David Wellbery.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--The University of Chicago, Division of the Social Sciences, John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, and Division of the Humanities, Department of Germanic Studies, 2015.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 76-08(E), Section: A.
Summary:My dissertation is an inquiry into the role of the elegiac--as a concept, practice, and literary mode--in human culture. It takes as its point of departure an assertion Giambattista Vico makes in The New Science: that the word humane, is derived from the verb humare, to bury, and that the organized structure of a community is rooted in the fundamental custom of burying its dead. Although it is clear that he means the actual interment of the corpse, I have extended his hypothesis to include a broader range of funeral customs. Vico's assertion allowed me to investigate the significance of elegiac space: not only the location of the grave, but its place in the intellectual life and memory of a community, and its role in making the place of that community possible. I hold that elegiac space is primarily written space; space which has been marked somehow--through tombs, evidence of prior habitation, inscription--and retains the mark of who or what is now absent. Writing not only plays an instrumental role in the burial process itself, but literature is a way for an author or reader to return to the grave and lament the absence of the ancestral dead. My inquiry takes as a premise that the space in which the human community lives is defined by the presence of their dead, through memorials and writing of all kinds, and that thoughtful, transformative contact with the dead is a necessary part of living in a human community. This contact, however, brings with it all sorts of unanticipated risks and demands. Like Odysseus' journey into the underworld, the reader's experience of an elegiac text involves the double task of attracting, and defending oneself against the dead. The project encompasses three central texts. The first chapter is a close reading of Schiller's elegy, Der Spaziergang, which focuses on the landscape described by the poem, the epitaph at its center, and the image of a universal human community at its conclusion. For a further elucidation of the latter concept I look to Schiller's essay Uber naive und sentimentalische Dichtung and its description of a permanently divided literary community. The second chapter focuses on a particular aspect of Nietzsche's Die Geburt der Tragodie: the civic funeral for Dionysus embedded within the Attic tragedy, and the transformation the audience undergoes by participating in it. I also address the enigmatic use to which Nietzsche puts Euripides' satyr play Alcestis, the titular character of which returns from the Underworld under a ban of silence, and is for Nietzsche an analog to the god Dionysus. The third and largest chapter is a reading of Rilke's Duineser Elegien which focuses on its elegiac dimensions. I take the poem to depict a drama of the voice, primarily in evidence in the first and last of the ten elegies. The voice's refusal to speak in the opening lines of the First Elegy has the decisive effect of banishing it to a linguistic Underworld in which it encounters the ancestral dead and receives the promise of a reconciliatory music which will sustain the living community. The fourth chapter mobilizes two theorists--Michel Serres and Rene Girard--to investigate the conceptual relationships between burial, writing, landscape, and the community. Both Serres and Girard propose a material connection between the practices of burial and writing, a connection which the elegiac itself strongly suggests we make, regardless of its empirical veracity. Three of the central and common elegiac concepts which emerge from my investigation into these texts are: 1.) An oscillation between the absolute isolation of an individual and their inclusion in an ideal or perfect community. 2.) The silencing of the speaking voice and the emergence of the independent purpose and structure of writing. 3.) The rootedness of meaning-making in the painstaking formation of a particular Place--whether it be "real" or imagined.