|RIVISTA DI STUDI ITALIANI|
|Anno XXII , n° 2, Dicembre 2004 ( Contributi )||pag. 198-220|
THE MATTER OF LANGUAGE:
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN POETRY AND PHILOSOPHY IN
AGAMBEN'S CRITICAL THOUGHT
|University of Wisconsin at Madison,
Dove finisce il linguaggio, comincia non l'indicibile,
ma la materia della parola. Chi non ha mai raggiunto, come in un sogno, questa lignea sostanza della lingua, che gli antichi chiamavano "selva", è, anche se tace, prigioniero delle rappresentazioni.
Giorgio Agamben, Idea della prosa1
Wer die höchste Unwirklichkeit erfaßt, wird die höchste Wirklichkeit gestalten.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Aufzeichnungen2
Now, I am tempted to say that the right expression in language for the miracle of the existence of the world,
though it is not any proposition in language, is the existence of language itself.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lecture on Ethics3
La singularité que le langage doit signifier n'est pas quelque chose d'ineffable, mais
de superlativement dicible: elle est la chose du langage.
Giorgio Agamben, Preface to the French edition of Infanzia e storia4
The notion of crisis is key to understanding Giorgio Agamben's critical thought - his thought of being, of language, of poetry, and of the community. Crisis means separation (krinein), and our epoch is one of a radical separation of human beings: an alienation from their labor and their life, a separation from each other, and from their immediate experience. The most striking manifestation of this crisis is the proliferation of images supposed to determine "things" or even replace them in the all-embracing
mode of representation. Agamben would agree with Martin Heidegger in calling our time the "age of the world picture"5 and with Guy Debord in calling our communal being the "society of the spectacle"6. Language too is marked by the crisis of the representational mode. But is there a form of discourse that could question that mode? Poetry and philosophy have often raised pretensions to such a revolutionary function. But are they not caught up in the same "epoch" of representation as any other language? Both have often been criticized for being "representational". The separation between the two was called a quarrel (diaphora), and they have remained opposed in the history of Western culture. [...]
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