Modernist Aesthetics of Emotions and Lyrical Discourse

TitleModernist Aesthetics of Emotions and Lyrical Discourse
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsJuvan, Marko
Conference NameThe Aesthetisation of Emotion
Date Published06/2009
PublisherInternational Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) - Literary Theory Committee Workshop
Conference LocationThe University of Sydney
Keywordsaesthetization, Communist society, depersonalization, emotions, literary field, lyrical discourse, modernism, Slovenian literature

In the Slovene lyrical poetry of the 1970s and 1980s, a particular feature of modernist poetics becomes prominent – direct pronouncements or declarations of emotions are so to say “censored,” while the presence of lyrical “inwardness” is emptied out; its cognitive, emotive, and modal traces are projected onto and dispersed over the linguistic surface through tropes and connotation. The fictional poetic self, known in the 19th century, thus mutates into a “zerological subject” (Kristeva), which seems to be constituted merely by discursive codes, pure and abstract gestures of speaking. Literary emotions, in their quality of represented topics, expressivity, or rhetorical performance (pathos), are cut off from contingencies of life world and its libidinal or social economies. Consequently, the “traditional,” post-Enlightenment literary language of emotions appears to be superseded by an abstract, pure beauty of tropes and textual surfaces, which testify to the conversion of lyrical discourse from expressive and representational cultural functions into a genuinely poetical, self-referential “aesthetic” realm. This kind of “depersonalization” and aesthetization of modernist poetry (cf. Friedrich), however, reintroduces emotionality through the back door – in the form of stimmung, evoked by a loss.

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