The effect upon poetics of Sein und Zeit during the fifty years of its history now has a history of its own. Explicit references to literature in Sein und Zeit are in fact very few. For this reason Beda Allemann speaks of an “essential absence of connection between Sein und Zeit and the phenomenon of literature as such (and not merely as pre-ontological evidence).”1 But he goes on to note that “apparently nothing stands in the way of interpreting the results of the existential analytic for the sake of a theory of literature” (HH, 89). Continental and, of late, American criticism bears him out. Indeed, to judge from the rigor and inner coherence of much poetic speculation based on Sein und Zeit, one would now be reluctant to speak of an “essential” absence of connection between Sein und Zeit and literature.
In the work of Staiger, Pfeiffer, Blanchot, Bense, de Man, and Derrida, to name a few, Sein und Zeit has shaped theoretical and practical poetics in decisive ways, and it has done so despite an important objection. This objection is based not on the inexplicitness of Heidegger’s poetics in Sein und Zeit but on the ontological bearing of that enterprise. Sein und Zeit defines the structures which constitute human existence. These “existentials” are put forward as part of an analysis of the understanding of Being which informs the question of Being. The existentials are not meant to organize our experience of some particular entity or to serve as the leading ideas of an ontic discipline, such as the study of literature.
But this argument, while it rightly invokes caution, is not strong enough to debar literary speculation based on Sein und Zeit. Taken strictly, it amounts to the assertion that in Sein und Zeit ontological discourse and ontic discourse — ontic implying empirical discourse — are informed by absolutely separate intents. But this assertion is not right. When Heidegger writes, for example, “The history of the signification of the ontical concept of ‘care’ permits us to see . . . basic structures of Dasein,”2 he describes a relation not of polarity but of hermeneutic circularity. The ontological perspective emerges in and through the ontic conception. The presence of a number of such moments of reciprocal disclosure between the ontological phenomenon and the ontical concept is not accidental. It is based on the fact that “the roots of the existential analytic, on its part, are ultimately . . . ontical” (BT, 34). “The task of an existential analytic of Dasein has been delineated in advance, as regards both its possibility and its necessity, in Dasein’s ontical constitution” (BT, 33). This is not to question, even within this circular relation, the priority of the ontological project. The existential analytic in Sein und Zeit produces a zone of clarity in which literary language can become transparent to its possibilities of ontological disclosure. But such an analysis would also profile legitimate ontical features of literature. Indeed, as we shall see, Heidegger guides this analysis.
He suggests an important place for literature within the existential analytic. The “deposition” he selects from “the history of the signification of the ontical concept of ‘care’ ” is a literary text, a fable by the Latin writer Hyginus. In this document, Heidegger asserts, his interpretation of human existence as care has been “sketched out beforehand in elemental ways” (BT, 242). True, what is decisive about this document is its character as a self-interpretation of Dasein and not as a literary text. But its literary character is not therefore irrelevant. Allemann writes, “In Sein und Zeit there is not the slightest indication that literature would be particularly conducive to such a self-interpretation. Rather, in its bearing on the interpretation of Dasein, literature is grouped together with philosophical psychology, anthropology, ethics, ‘political science,’ biography and the writing of history (SZ, 16)” (HH, 88). This argument is not telling. Heidegger justifies his choice of the Hyginus fable as follows: “... A deposition which comes from [Dasein’s] history and goes back to it, and which, moreover, is prior to any scientific knowledge, will have especial weight, even though its importance is never purely ontological” (BT, 241-42). A deposition prior to scientific knowledge could not have come out of the canonical texts of just any of the disciplines named above (although history or biography could still have come into question). Moreover, Heidegger’s note describing how he came to discover the Hyginus-fable takes pains to mention that “the fable of Cura . . . was taken over from Herder by Goethe and worked up for the second part of his Faust” (BT, 492). He is undoubtedly conjuring with the authority of Goethe’s insight into the literary value of the work as a warrant for its “pre-ontological” importance.3
But there is another crucially important statement in Sein und Zeit which argues further and more decisively for the privilege of “poetic discourse.” “In ‘poetical’ discourse,” writes Heidegger, “the communication of the existential possibilities of one’s state-of-mind can become an aim in itself, and this amounts to a disclosing of existence.”4 The critic Schrimpf, who also finds an absence of connection between Sein und Zeit and poetics, altogether omits mentioning this sentence.5 Allemann alludes to it, but glosses it so as to diminish its force:
If within the existential analytic, literature nonetheless thus acquires a certain importance as the self-expression of Dasein, it should be further noted that Heidegger’s concept of existence itself does not possess characteristics derived, say, from the psychology of the artist as the “creative” human being, as is the case with central concepts (life, évolution créatrice) in the thought of Dilthey and Bergson. (HH, 88)
This of course is true. Heidegger attributes to mood a power to disclose the totality of Dasein’s being-in-the-world — a power more fundamental than the large emotions attributed by Dilthey to the artistic personality. He perceives with considerable originality that the poetic character of language could be the measure with which language realizes the possibilities of the disclosure reserved to mood.
We shall be exploring this sentence as constituting a vital moment within an epoch of German poetics. Allemann’s comment makes a helpful distinction, but it should not diminish the force of Heidegger’s statement. The poetics of Lebensphilosophie, in the hands of Dilthey and the George circle, is rooted in an ethic of experience and expressiveness. It could not inspire, except by calculated negation, Heidegger’s existential analytic of everyday Dasein. But Heidegger’s description of the goal of poetic discourse is, on the other hand, perfectly consistent with the existential analytic and has implications extending throughout the entire root system of Sein und Zeit. Can it therefore be the case, as Allemann concludes, that “state-of-mind and understanding as constitutive modes of Da-sein’s being ... are initially indifferent with respect to the phenomenon of artistic existence”? (HH, 88). We have noted that Heidegger speaks differently in according to poetic discourse the possibility of truth precisely by its power of taking hold of and communicating the existential possibilities of states-of-mind. “The phenomenon of artistic existence” would arise as the concern for turning moods back to their source, wresting from them their fallen character of revealing only by way of “an evasive turning-away” from existence (BT, 175).
Finally, in light of the central role of the “basic state of mind” of anxiety in Sein und Zeit, it would not follow that “an existentialistic poetics (Literaturwissenschaft) basing itself on Heidegger is possible only on the strength of the anthropological misunderstanding” (HH, 89). In paying heed to literature as a disclosure by mood of existential possibility, the literary theoretician proceeds in basic accord with Heidegger’s project in Sein und Zeit. For Heidegger will justify his study of anxiety in the existential analytic by the same concern.
Like any ontological Interpretation whatsoever, this analytic can only, so to speak, “listen in” to some previously disclosed entity as regards its Being. And it will attach itself to Dasein’s distinctive and most far-reaching possibilities of disclosure [as principally contained within the mood of anxiety], in order to get information about this entity from these. (BT, 179)
When Heidegger’s notion of poetic discourse is taken as a center, poetics and ontology participate in Sein und Zeit in a circle of reciprocal disclosure. The relation between particular and general in this work is then formally comparable with the intimate relation of empirical aesthetics and critical thought in Kant’s The Critique of Judgment. Here, too, “the poetic art” (but also formal gardens and pure arabesques) are held in the play of reciprocal illumination with “something . . . connected with the ground of freedom.”6
Heidegger’s assertion linking poetry, mood, and truth is important in several ways. Because it has obvious implications for poetics, it helps define a system of assertions in Sein und Zeit inspiring reflection on literary language. Its terms moreover profile an earlier Romantic tradition of poetic speculation. When their implications are spelled out, they articulate a stage in Heidegger’s poetics which differs instructively from the poetics of subsequent texts. Therefore, to assert as does Schrimpf, that in Sein und Zeit “poetry as poetry is not yet in any way expressly thematized” or that “the first evidence of the contribution of what is specifically poetic to the self-interpretation of thought... is The Origin of the Work of Art”7 (italics mine), is mere polemical overstatement. It dangerously dismisses the implications for poetics of the fruitful complex of mood, temporality, and interpretation on behalf of the problematical effort of Heidegger’s later Erläuterungen to displace all philologically based literary study. Heidegger’s poetics are then absorbed in his un-exemplary, “self-imposing” effort at dialogical thinking, and subsequent literary study is left to court exhaustion through the technologies of linguistics and sociology.
The key term in Heidegger’s account of poetic discourse is “Befindlichkeit” (state-of-mind), which Heidegger also refers to by its ontic counterpart, “Stimmung” (mood). The term mood acquires its main force from its place within the ordonnance of Sein und Zeit. But the fact that it figures here in the context of a poetics invokes a diachronic line of force, the “pathic” tradition in aesthetics.
Western aesthetics has been seen as the history of a dichotomy defined in innumerable ways. One opposes the terms “an aesthetics of measure and symmetry, consonantia or proportio, the unum-multum, the aesthetics of sapience, the play of the faculties, totality, form, ...” to “emotionsof pity and fear and their catharsis, enthusiasm, the sublime,. . . empathy, expressiveness. . . .”8 Heidegger belongs to this second sequence, recognizable as the tradition which, from Greek times, has stressed the feeling dimension of literature. Whatever else may originate or define it, literary communication is, at least in one of its moments, essentially feeling. The location of the term of feeling varies, but recurs. Plato, in Ion, stresses the manic state-of-mind of the poet. Aristotle stresses the feeling object imitated by the tragic poet, “incidents embodying pity and fear,” as well as the feelings aroused and purged in the spectator.9 Kant defines the state of mind arising from the perception of form as a Gefühl, a sentiment; for Kant the poem is essentially form, but the analogy for form is a feeling — of the harmonious interplay of imagination and understanding.
But if, in poetics, feeling is admitted, it is at once modified; indeed, for Dilthey, in his more radical style, it is “metamorphosed.”10 Aesthetic tradition distinguishes between actual feelings and the feelings constituting art, which are fictive — feelings whose motive is not personally interesting. Poetics must then stress the power of literature to reveal, by means of signs having the character of feelings, something different from lived experience. Volkelt speaks of the literary work as gefühlsanalog, as analogous to feeling, but ideal, as other than feeling.11 Literature generates the distinction between the fictive and the lived at the level of feeling; this can be seen in Aristotle. The purgation of tragedy is linked to the fact that what it communicates is not so much feelings (which have an historical existence) as the possibility of feelings; with this distinction Aristotle grounds the superiority of poetry to history.
The distinction between feeling as sensation-bound and feeling as disclosure is most clearly accomplished in Kant. Kant describes the aesthetic sentiment as a general structure capable of making a far-reaching discovery. The aesthetic sentiment reveals the attunement (Einstimmung) of the cognitive energies enabling all particular cognitions and “finds a reference in itself” to a “ground of unity.”12 Biemel has perceived the importance of this point. He writes:
Kant allows to feeling, to mood, a revelatory function of judgment which was usually granted only to logical cognition. Kant has demonstrated in The Critique of Judgment how feeling is no “second-rate,” incidental, merely emotional faculty, but on the contrary how it mediates for us an experience which has a claim on general validity. He implicitly lends to feeling a “veritative” significance which had not found its authentic justification until our time with Heidegger and Scheler.13
Biemel ought to stress the verbal form of Kant’s discovery; Kant names aesthetic feeling in its formality and transparency with the decisive term “Stimmung,” mood.
The elaboration in Kant’s third Critique of the dimension of mood in art is, I think, the single most important achievement of his aesthetics. Kant grasps the essential character of mood as non-purposive feeling, as the felt absence of a real-intentional character. Mood is self-reflexive.
Spitzer’s monumental Classical and Christian Ideas of World Harmony is sub-titled Prolegomena to an Interpretation of the Word “Stimmung”. He breaks off just short of Kant. The history of mood in the modern period remains to be written. Rousseau would figure in it decisively, not least as the author of the Confessions who conceives his project as a “history of moods.” ‘“J’écris moins l’histoire de ces éve[ne]mens en eux-mêmes que celle de l’état de mon âme, à mesure qu’ils sont arrivés.”14 Such a project requires the invention of “a new language,” especially as the moods of his story are original.15 Yet they are original not because they are particular but because they are general. Rousseau will need to capture this dimension of his moods; he will do so by including in his portrait the ideal dimension of the mood of writing: “I shall doubly portray my mood.”16 Rousseau’s concern for moods having an ideal or general character is also the subject of the fifth Revery. The celebrated “sentiment de l’existence” may indeed have guided Kant’s phenomenal description of the mood of aesthetic judgment.
The centrality of the term mood (Stimmung) (in its cognates Gefühl, Gemütszustand, sentiment; état d’âme) for the imaginative work of Rousseau and the systematic work of Kant exemplifies the importance of mood in the poetry and criticism of “Romantic” writers. The twenty-second letter of Schiller’s Aesthetic Education correlates the “aesthetic mood” (die ästhetische Stimmung des Gemüts), “which contains the whole of humanity,” with artistic form. For Hölderlin, for whom feeling constitutes “the best sobriety and reflection of the poet”, “the inner ideal life can be grasped in various moods”;17 these moods may then function as the principles of poetic diction. Wordsworth’s “mood of composition” transforms emotions recollected in tranquillity into the fictive emotions of his art. The theory of the last two writers helps to define the themes of their work as mood, temporality, and poetic language, and the form of their work (in Staiger’s sense) as a certain form of temporality.18 Their poetry exists as the movement through which lived moods are conducted into the moodful language of fiction.
The history of mood in the nineteenth century foreshadows the implicit inner connections in Sein und Zeit of the terms mood, historicity, and interpretation. A formulation from Lukács’s Theory of the Novel, describing the alienated situation from which the novel-hero arises, suggests the necessity of these connections: “The nature of moods . . . presupposes the impossibility of an achieved and meaningful substance, the impossibility that the constitutive subject could find an appropriate constitutive object.”19 The impossibility of the coincidence of the subject with its world, evident in the fragility and strangeness of its moods, establishes the historicity of the subject. For, finally, it is this “nécessité de parcourir le temps [qu’] empêche l’esprit d’être maître de lui-même et de son contenu, de coïncider avec soi dans la plénitude absolue d’une possession systématique et transparente du réel” (italics mine).20 The common property of post-Kantian philosophical anthropologies in Germany is the revelation through mood of human historicity and consequently of the necessarily interpretative relation of the self to its content, its “text”. More particularly, when the source of literary language is grasped as mood, as the fundamental yet unstable reflex of the temporal self, the historical character of literary interpretation becomes explicit. “[Literary] understanding can be called complete only when it becomes aware of its own temporal predicament and realizes that the horizon within which the totalization can take place is time itself. The act of understanding is a temporal act that has its own history. . . . ”21 This situation helps originate the rich speculative tradition of nineteenth-century interpretation theory.
Kierkegaard, Dilthey, and Nietzsche are the chief figures of this tradition and Heidegger’s immediate precursors. In each, a reflection on the category of mood profiles and organizes a poetics and hermeneutics. In Kierkegaard, moods are tones or voices comprising the “lyric dialectic” and exacting strenuous interpretations and choices. Dilthey’s poetics, especially in The Literary Imagination (Die Einbildungskraft des Dichters) profiles mood as the entity enabling the passage of lived experience (Erlebnis) to its historical expression (Ausdruck) and its ultimate reconstitution in interpretation. This term heightens Dilthey’s consciousness of the contingency of textual interpretation but also suggests to him the way in which meaning might be communicated across historical differences. Nietzsche meanwhile represents in the figure of moods that thinking which is not reflection but activity and play. The link between a mood-centered aesthetics and Nietzsche’s panhermeneutical metaphysics is plain in Aphorism No. 119 from The Dawn (Morgenröte) :“Can it be . . . that all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown, perhaps unknowable, but felt text?”
Between the conceptions of mood in these writers there are vital differences. Yet the term persists tenaciously in modern European poetics in its crucial difference from that of sensation-bound feeling. Throughout the entire tradition, but at its clearest in Heidegger, mood stands for a disclosive power which cognitive understanding cannot sustain. The affirmation of the centrality of mood is at the same time inspired by a live reluctance to surrender truth to the “squint-eyed gaze” of irrationalism (see BT, 175). Perhaps something of the optimism engendered by the discovery attunes the mood which Kant makes exemplary for his demonstration. The aesthetic mood has the tonality of sociability, play, and delight, whereas for Heidegger the exemplary mood is anxiety.
What, then, is the force of Heidegger’s connecting poetic discourse with mood in the system of Sein und Zeit ? This demonstration is in principle as long as Sein und Zeit itself, for the scope of the terms “discourse,” “communication,” “existential,” “possibility,” “disclosure,” and, finally, “state of mind” encompasses the entire existential analytic. Here I shall indicate only the features of Heidegger’s description of these various terms which strike me as particularly interesting or as hitherto unnoted or unstressed.
1. Discourse. Discourse is first of all not to be equated with written or spoken language. Along with mood and understanding it constitutes a primordial disposition of being prior to language. Heidegger terms discourse “the articulation of intelligibility”: it is how we “articulate ‘significantly’ the intelligibility of Being-in-the-world. . . . Vocal utterance, however, is not essential for discourse ...” (BT, 204, 316). “At this stage of Heidegger’s thought,” writes Biemel,
logos [i.e. discourse], in contra-distinction to the usual meaning of the word, is the constitutive moment, and language is merely the way in which logos gets expressed. Language is that through which the logos makes itself mundane; through language it becomes an element of the world and can be treated like other things found in the world.22
The force of this point is the depth at which Heidegger situates the poetic. It is first of all a fundamental orientation toward moods as toward intelligible existence as a whole. It is also the expression of meanings in words, but “in the factical linguistic form of any definite case of [such] discourse” not every constitutive element of the poetic may appear (BT, 206). To this extent literary language could not be grasped as an ensemble of word-things present-at-hand nor as a tool functional within a context of equipment. Literature is not an objective fact nor a social function. It would have to be understood principally in terms of an intention aiming at conformity with its source, a goal which it always falls short of. As Aler observes, “as soon as understanding manifests itself as a phonetic expression of significations — as an expression in words — one can observe that the project appears [in Sein und Zeit ] in its being thrown.”23 In the way the poetic disclosure is expressed, there is already a certain opaque understanding deposited in it. “Dasein is constantly delivered over to this interpretedness, which controls and distributes the possibilities of average understanding and of the state-of-mind belonging to it” (BT, 211).
The original aspect of literary language, together with its ineluctable captivation by the “world,” inspires the now well-known conception of literature in Paul de Man’s Blindness and Insight:
With respect to its own specificity (that is, as an existing entity susceptible to historical description), literature exists at the same time in modes of error and truth; it both betrays and obeys its own mode of being. ... If literature rested at ease within its own self-definition, it could be studied according to methods that are scientific rather than historical. We are obliged to confine ourselves to history when this is no longer the case, when the entity steadily puts its own ontological status into question.24
An entity that aims to disclose being and yet exist as the “worldly expression” of significance courts “the desire to break out of literature toward the reality of the moment”;25 and whether as a movement of appropriation or of denial of the moment, it is prey, therefore, to the destiny of manipulation, of dissimulation, of idle talk.
Heidegger’s poetics shares with Russian structuralism and certain types of French formalism the perception that the true subject of poetics is not poems but “poeticity.” But with Heidegger the “poeticity” of literary language consists not in a calculable property but in an intention — one, moreover, which it is now possible to describe more richly than in the customary way as self-reflexive. The character of poetic language arises from its insistence on articulating states-of-mind, that is, moods, with a view toward their fullest possible disclosure; what they disclose are “existential possibilities,” read, “existence.”
The force of Heidegger’s situating the poetic at the level of logos and not of language might be illustrated in another way. From a variety of critical standpoints, language is nowadays described as literary to the extent that it discloses its rhetoricity, its character as figurative speech. But following Heidegger the essence of figurative expression cannot be located in definite types of verbal entities having the character of objects present-at-hand — say, in metaphorical or metonymic figures. The depth of figurativeness arises from a primordial intention which language cannot realize but can only mediate. The source of poetic language is moods opened up to primary existential possibility, to authentically finite, temporal historical existence. But poetry, as language, is insistently problematic.
“Is [language] a kind of equipment ready-to-hand within-the-world, or has it Dasein’s kind of Being, or is it neither of these?” (BT, 209). The possibility that language has Dasein’s kind of being is by no means automatically auspicious. For this implies that language aiming to communicate the existential possibilities of moods will, like Dasein, find itself “equiprimordially in untruth,” in error. Heidegger writes:
It is not an accident that the earliest systematic Interpretation of affects that has come down to us is not treated in the framework of “psychology.” Aristotle investigates the pathe (affects) in the second book of his Rhetoric. Contrary to the traditional orientation, according to which rhetoric is conceived as the kind of thing we “learn in school,” this work of Aristotle must be taken as the first systematic hermeneutic of the everydayness of being with one another. Publicness, as the kind of Being which belongs to the “they,” not only has in general its own way of having a mood, but needs moods and “makes” them for itself. It is into such a mood and out of such a mood that the orator speaks. He must understand the possibilities of moods in order to rouse them and guide them aright. (BT, 178)
Poetic discourse runs the peril of manipulating the inauthentic possibilities of moods and, as poetic language, has always already submitted to some extent to this peril. Poetic language is to the same extent rhetoric — but a rhetoric that functions as a figure for the original intention toward authenticity.
2. Communication. Heidegger’s sentence speaks of poetic discourse as a type of communication. This point should not be passed over. It follows a full account of the meaning of communication apropos of assertion and interpretation, and the theme of communication is again picked up in Heidegger’s discussion of discourse and language. Here Heidegger writes:
the phenomenon of communication must be understood in a sense which is ontologically broad. “Communication” in which one makes assertions — giving information, for instance — is a special case of that communication which is grasped in principle existentially. In this more general kind of communication, the Articulation of Being with one another understandingly is constituted. Through it a co-state-of-mind [Mitbefindlichkeit] gets “shared,” and so does the understanding of Being-with. Communication is never anything like a conveying of experiences, such as opinions or wishes, from the interior of one subject into the interior of another. Dasein-with is already essentially manifest in a co-state of mind and a co-understanding. In discourse Being-with becomes “explicitly” shared; that is to say, it is already, but it is unshared as something that has not been taken hold of and appropriated.” (BT, 205)
Poetic discourse is, for Heidegger, the privileged vehicle of a certain kind of communication. This kind of communication, which shares explicitly the existential possibilities of moods, looks to poetic discourse for its realization. Poetic discourse is informed by a communicative intent.
In this perspective it would be senseless to speak of an act of writing that had put aside the communicative function. As Fritz Kaufmann writes:
Contact with the artist himself is not that of personal association, but that of super-personal participation in his work. For this participation is mediated of course by communication. But not so that the artist himself communicates his mood to us, manifests himself personally as the vehicle of the mood and the communication ... ; the mood communicates itself to us from out of the work, in the manner in which it is precipitated in this work as an independent crystallization. Through being absorbed in a work — which in assuming the mood also frees itself from being a mere agency — artistic openness is protected from the danger of . . . personal exposure.26
The ineluctability of the communicative intent has been (correctly) maintained even in the dominant schools of recent critical theory based on sociological and everyday linguistic analogues and, as such, most opposite to fundamental ontology. The insistence on the communicative character of literary discourse is therefore by no means the automatically polemical, anti-existentialist gesture which many suppose it to be. This point links Heidegger’s program with Habermas’s and Watzlawick’s and can be paraphrased this way: “The one true impossibility of human communicative behavior [is] that it is impossible not to communicate.”27
Kept in mind, this point would discourage the tendency to describe modernism of the Flaubertian strain as “the attempt to escape from the circuit of communication, to make the text a written object and not the physical manifestation of a communicative act.”28 Such an approach — here it is Jonathan Culler’s — flows from the persistent tendency in modern formalism to interpret the “logos in a way which is ontologically inadequate” wherein “the logos gets experienced as something present-at-hand and Interpreted as such, while at the same time the entities which it points out have the meaning of presence-at-hand” (BT, 203). Culler goes on to discredit the critic’s supposition of the coherence of the literary work: “The notion that works of art must be unified and that the task of criticism is to demonstrate this unity derives, at least in part, from the communicative model and the metaphysics of presence on which it rests.”29 After Sein und Zeit , this makes strange reading indeed. The experience of thought to which “the metaphysics of presence” alludes — Heidegger’s experience before Derrida’s! — seems to have been occluded within the mere phrase. It is perfectly false that “the communicative model” need rest on a metaphysics of presence.
In Sein und Zeit the link is between a “communicative model” and a theory of historicity. As Aler observes:
[In Sein und Zeit ] in linguistic art the sensitive . . . explanation of our Being-in-the-world takes place in such a way that it also speaks to others. If this had not been touched on in principle, it would then have been impossible in Sein und Zeit to develop the phenomenon of being united by a common fate within the framework of man’s historicity.30
3. Mood. The passage describing communication “in a sense which is ontologically broad” is vital to an understanding of Heidegger’s characterization of poetic discourse. Poetic discourse turns on an act of communication; this act is essentially the sharing of a state-of-mind. To say of a certain kind of discourse that in it “the communication of the existential possibilities of one’s state-of-mind can become an aim in itself” is not on the face of it to specify anything like “poetic discourse,” since such communication would apparently describe Section 40 of Sein und Zeit, in which Heidegger explains the existential possibilities of the basic state-of-mind of anxiety. This explanation occurs in the assertive mode, but it is the assertion which Heidegger, in the passage above, specifically designates “a special case” of communication and again as “not the primary ‘locus’ of truth” (BT, 269). “Indeed from the ontological point of view we must as a general principle leave the primary discovery of the world to ‘bare mood’ ” (BT, 177). The distinctiveness and primordiality of poetic discourse are based on the fact that its truth is the truth of moods as it can be communicated by a mood.
To the extent that a poem is poetic it thus communicates a mood transparent to its own possibilities. These possibilities vary, of course, with the mood communicated. But at the basis of each such structure of possibilities is what Heidegger terms “Geworfenheit” (thrownness).
Literature reveals through moods the dimensions of thrownness. The French translations “déjection” (Wahl) and “déreliction” (de Waehlens) correctly convey something of its negative tonality. As “thrown,” Dasein finds itself open to itself and its world but having to endure itself and its world as a burden. Both this openness and this oppression stem from the fact that Dasein does not know its origin or its goal: it is open only to the existence that it has to be in being already “there.” When Dasein finds itself thrown, it finds itself moreover “in a way of finding which arises not so much from a direct seeking as rather from a fleeing” (BT, 174). In its states-of-mind Dasein turns uneasily away from the fact of its existence, its “that it is.”
Poetic discourse thus brings Dasein face to face with the fact of its contingency, its “thralldom” in existence, brings it back from the “tranquillized supposition that it possesses everything, or that everything is within its reach” (BT, 223). It arrests the turbulence with which Dasein falls away from its own destination: its finitude, “the fact ‘that it is, and that it has to be . . . the entity which it is’ ” (BT, 321). As finite, Dasein is fundamentally thrown toward its death; it therefore knows the possibility of authentic existence. This possibility is the central disclosure of mood transparent to itself. Toward it is oriented the force of the poetic disclosure of the other “essential characteristics of states-of-mind”: that “mood has already disclosed, in every case, Being-in-the-world as a whole, and makes it possible first of all to direct oneself towards something. .. .[Further it] implies a disclosive submission to the world, out of which we can encounter something that matters to us” (BT, 176-77). Together, these revelations constitute a virtual origin for Dasein, from which it could redirect itself toward something or let something matter to it authentically.
The point is plausible, I think, if one grasps the literary work as a world. In an exemplary way the human beings “in” it are delivered over to that world and none other. The interpreter of literature who shares the existence of its “characters” has the exemplary experience of what it is to be enthralled by a world. At the same time he maintains an interpretative distance from his experience. This distance permits him to grasp the fact of his thralldom to his own world and at the same time to reorient himself toward it.
Literature thus becomes the vehicle of a possible authenticity. This point has often been asserted, especially by those readers of Sein und Zeit who from the very start were most interested in finding a connection between it and literature. As a rule, however, no attempt is made to find in Sein und Zeit the justification for the claim that literature profiles with any particular urgency or clarity the existential possibility of authenticity. But this argument is present in the work in various forms.
Poetic discourse seeks to share that articulation of moods which would amount to a disclosure of existence. It thus aims at Dasein’s most authentic disclosedness, for “the most primordial, and indeed most authentic, disclosedness in which Dasein .. . can be, is the truth of existence” (BT, 264). This idea is confirmed by Heidegger’s discussion of the discourse which takes a different aim — which issues into assertion and whose truth is derivative from existential-hermeneutical disclosure. One way of distinguishing between these two kinds of discourse is by distinguishing the moods that accompany them; linked to different modes of understanding, they are differently attuned. Poetic discourse elicits moods of various kinds, including the mood of anxiety. “Apophantical” discourse, issuing into the language of assertions, knows only the mood of theory — the tranquility of just tarrying alongside the world. But this mood is marked by its desire to be without moods. It would be proof against the disclosure which mood could accomplish, including the “quite distinctive” disclosure of anxiety: “that authenticity and inauthenticity are possibilities of [Dasein’s] Being” (BT, 235).
In an important way, then, Heidegger’s analysis of anxiety merely makes explicit the disclosure he first attributed to poetic discourse. Earlier, we noted the formal analogy: Sein und Zeit “listens in” to the possibilities of such distinctive entities as moods. This is the traditional project of poet and hearer. But the affinity is more revealing at the substantive level: Heidegger’s analysis of the basic mood of anxiety provides him with “the phenomenal basis for explicitly grasping Dasein’s primordial totality of Being” (BT, 227). This is exactly the basic function he earlier assigned to the phenomenon of poetic language: the poetic articulation of moods with communicative intent discloses existence. To prove this affinity, finally, it is not necessary to find that poetic understanding is anxiously attuned. For “along with the sober anxiety,” writes Heidegger, “which brings us face to face with our individualized potentiality-for-Being, there goes an unshakable joy in this possibility” (BT, 358). This joy could be the essence of poetry.
1 Hölderlin und Heidegger, 2nd ed. (Zurich: Atlantis, 1956), pp. 88-89. Additional references cited as: HH.
2 Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 243. Additional references cited as: BT.
3 See Jan Aler, “Heidegger’s Conception of Language in Being and Time,” in On Heidegger and Language (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972), p. 44.
4 Being and Time, p. 205.
5 Hans Joachim Schrimpf, “Beitrag zu Forschungsproblemen: Hölderlin, Heidegger und die Literaturwissenschaft,” Euphorion, 51 (1957), 313.
6 The Critique of Judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Clarendon, 1952), p. 224.
7 “Beitrag,” 313.
8 Guido Morpurgo-Tagliabue, L’esthétique contemporaine (Milan: Marzorati, 1960), p. 597.
9 Poetics, XIV, 5.
10 Die Einbildungskraft des Dichters, Gesammelte Schriften, 6 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1914), p. 138.
11 Cited in Pfeiffer, Das Lyrische Gedicht als Ästhetisches Gebilde (Halle: Niemeyer, 1931), p. 68.
12 Critique, pp. 224, 14.
13 Walter Biemel, Die Bedeutung von Kants Begründung der Ästhetik für die Philosophie der Kunst, Kantstudien, Ergänzungshefte, 77 (Köln: Kölner Universitäts-Verlag, 1959), p. 145.
14 Oeuvres complètes, Tome I, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (Paris: Gallimard, 1959), p. 1150.
15 Oeuvres, p. 1153.
16 Oeuvres, p. 1154.
17 Sämtliche Werke (Frankfurt: Insel, 1961), pp. 960, 971.
18 Die Zeit als Einbildungskraft des Dichters (Zurich and Leipzig: Max Niehans, 1939), pp. 66-70 and “Schlusz.”
19 Die Theorie des Romans (Neuwied: Luchterhand Verlag, 1965), p. 63.
20 Jacques Havet, Kant et le problème du temps (Paris: Gallimard, 1953), p. 10.
21 Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 32.
22 Walter Biemel, “Poetry and Language in Heidegger,” in On Heidegger and Language, pp. 70-71. See n. 3 above.
23 “Heidegger’s Conception of Language,” p. 50.
24 Blindness and Insigh t, pp. 163-64.
25 Blindness and Insight, p. 162.
26 “Die Bedeutung der künstlerischen Stimmung,” Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, Ergänzungsband (1929), p. 214.
27 Dieter Krusche, Kafka und Kafka-Deutung (Munich: Fink, 1974), p. 156.
28 Jonathan Culler, Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974), p. 15.
29 Flaubert, p. 17.
30 “Heidegger’s Conception of Language,” p. 62.