Conceiving Unity of Being: The Environmental Modernism of R. M. Rilke and W. B. Yeats
Müller, Sabine Lenore
Mueller, Sabine Lenore
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This thesis explores the works of two of the most influential European modernists, Rainer Maria Rilke and William Butler Yeats, in the light of the relatively recent formation of the theoretical paradigm of eco-criticism. Goal of this thesis is to trace and understand the forms and functions of the environmental imagination as well as ecological concerns and resistances to exploitative practices articulated in their works. Their insistence on continuity between text, reader and environment, corporeal self-experience and environmental phenomena is deeply relevant to emerging quests for ecologically viable modes of thinking being. Their works develop notions of continuity of human beings and environments and the refusal to differentiate between self and non-self. Based on philosophical texts by Giorgio Agamben, this thesis investigates the emergence of 'zone[s] of non-knowledge,' in which caesurae between man and animal are left undefined. The first chapter explores the early works of both poets. Textual ambiguities and strategies of uncertainty are discussed in the context of turn-of-the-century thought and aesthetics. The 'Face' is understood as a threshold on which environment and individual self cannot be told apart. The rhetorical and poetic device of prosopopeia, the endowing of beings, objects or environments with human features will be discussed within the frame of the changing significance assigned to it from 19th century elaborations to 20th and 21st century ecocritical discussions. The second part of the thesis is dedicated to investigating the delimitation of the sacred and the aesthetics of self-destitution in selected collections of poetry, especially Rilke's Das Stunden-Buch (1902) and the early to middle poetry of W. B. Yeats up to and including The Tower (1928). The third part will look at Yeats's and Rilke's notion of death-in-life as a unity, in which one is interspersed with the other as dLeIaFtEh. The third part will outline Yeats's reception of Rilke in the very last phase of his creation and will explore the influence that this reception, especially his notion of death, had on his latest works. This thesis develops the concept of poetic environmental Modernism as characterised by the continuity of signification and embodiment, the environment and the self, the artefact and the process of its emergence and self-consummation within reception. It wishes to offer access points for further studies by developing methods for investigating environmental Modernism in texts by turn-of-the-century European authors.
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