'Le style, c'est le diable': Twentieth-Century German Poetry in Dialogue with Paul Valéry

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Abstract

This article explores the dialectic of rejection and affinity shared by the responses to Paul Valéry of three non-German German-language poets. Despite significant affinities in cultural ambition and poetics (notably between ‘L'Âme et la danse’ and ‘Das Gespräch über Gedichte’), there is little evidence of an influence exerted by Valéry on Hofmannsthal, who was strangely suspicious of him. In contrast, Rilke was hugely enthusiastic, and although his translations of Valéry did not give the often asserted impetus for the creative flowering of 1922, other somewhat uncharacteristic poems (such as ‘Zueignung an M.’ and ‘Der Magier’) positively reflect his encounter with Valéry's Mallarméan conception of the poet. However, his versions of Charmes display less poetological proximité than the revisionary effects of a much less overtly self-conscious view of poetry, shown here with ‘Les Grenades’. Celan's translation of La Jeune Parque was a systematic attempt to subvert the solipsism of the original study in self-consciousness and ostensibly incarnates his rejection of the aesthetics of an overly intellectual poetry. However, possible reasons why his initial reluctance to translate Valéry was eventually overcome are discernible in the near-contemporaneous speech, ‘Der Meridian’, which explores the utopian notion of ‘freiwerdende Sprache’, partly in response to Valéry.
Translated title of the contribution'Le style, c'est le diable': Twentieth-Century German Poetry in Dialogue with Paul Valéry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298 - 314
Number of pages17
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume60
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007

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