Una farola iluminándose a sí misma
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory, ed.
Irena Makaryk. (U of Toronto Press, 1993).
HEIDEGGER, Martin. (b. Germany, 1889-d. 1976). Philosopher. A
student of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger emerged from and
transformed the phenomenological movement and the hermeneutic tradition
of continental philosophy. He taught at Marburg (1923-8) and Freiburg
im Breisgau (1928-44) and was briefly rector of Freiburg University
(1933-4). Heidegger's work has influenced much contemporary thought:
existentialists (Jean-Paul Sartre), Marxists and poststructuralists
(Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard) have taken up his critique of
modern society, technology and the 'logocentrism' of metaphysics.
Ontological hermeneutics (Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricœur) owes much to
Heidegger's understanding of language and history. See also
phenomenological criticism, Marxist criticism, post-structuralism).
Heidegger's first studies were theological and through many
transformations the question of the relation of the logos to the divine
remained central to all his work. By his own account, the central
question of Heidegger's thought is the question of being: what does it
mean to say that a human being, a thing, a work is, each in its own way
in being? Heidegger's investigation of this question—which is both
'systematic' and 'historical'—calls for the radical dismantling and
recovery on a more primordial ground of the entire metaphysical
tradition, from its Greek beginnings to its consummation in and
dissolution into the technological practices and metadiscourses of our
time. The question of art, in turn, is implicated in the being-question
and Heidegger thus calls for the abandonment of the metaphysical
premises of aesthetics.
One may distinguish at least six major phases in his thought directly
or indirectly pertinent to an exploration of the arts: (1) Sein und
Zeit [Being and Time 1927] and the lectures on mood —Die
Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik (1929-30)—the
first remains the starting point for any reflection on a 'Heideggerian'
literary theory: (2) 'The Origin of the Literary Work of Art' (1936)
and the Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis 1936-38),
its systematic context; (3) the Hölderlin lectures (volumes 39, 52 and
53 in the complete edition); (4) Heidegger's recovery of Friedrich
Nietzsche's aesthetics (The Will to Power as Art 1936-7);
(5) the late essays on language and poetry collected in On the Way
to Language (1959); (6) essays on technology and the fate of
art and thought in the in technological era (Discourse on Thinking 1959;
'The Question Concerning Technology' 1953). The question of art as it
is posed within the horizon of technology is the essential source of
Heidegger's reflection on art. The arts, in Heidegger's estimate, have
the potential of bringing to light and 'in-corporating' the dynamic
event of the arrival and departure of beings into being in the face of
a technological modelling of all that is as static, 'finished' products
on line and on call.
Sein und Zeit (1927), Heidegger's first major work,
its goal the analysis of the structure of human being taken as a clue
to the investigation of the meaning—the different possible senses—of
being. Human being, or Da-sein, is understood as
openness-to-being: Dasein is
the site where beings manifest themselves. The analysis of language,
truth and 'emotion' carried out in this work, while far removed from
the specific concerns of literary theory, nonetheless offers the bassi
for a radical reappraisal of literature (Corngold; Marshall). The
language of poetry has traditionally been regarded as being without
'truth value'. In the formulation of I.A. Richards, it is composed of
'pseudo-statements' which are parasitical (J.L. Austin) upon
'normal' language use: given that poetic devices have a merely
decorative function without cognitive insight, the chief 'value' of
poetry finally resolves itself into its ability to communicate
sincerely the emotion of the speaker. This account rests on the
assumptions that the pre-eminent form of language use is the
propositional schema of the statement and that truth is a property of
In deconstructing this metaphysical doctrine, Heidegger allows that the
origin of truth is not the proposition but the disclosure of the things
themselves (See *deconstruction). For in order for a statement to say
truely or falsely about something, thus corresponding or failing to
correspond to it, the thins must already be manifest. Truth as the
openness of manifestation, as the 'unhidenness' of beings (the Greek aletheia),
is the condition of the 'truth' of the statement. The statement,
moreover, is just one, derivative way in which things can be disclosed
and thus become meaningful. What Heidegger calls *discourse (die Rede)—understood
as the articulation or 'jointedness' of the meaningfulness of Dasein's
being in the word—articulates itself more primordially in other forms
of disclosure—for example, in action, in silence and in art works. The
power of literature to disclose, therefore, cannot be judged by the
criterion of the proposition. The truth of the artwork ultimately rests
on its power to found a structure of meaning or 'world'. Propositional
language-use makes statements about aspects of the alreayd founded and
is in this sense less primordial than the linguistic work.
Inasmuch as Heidegger deconstructs the metaphysics of subjectivity he
also distances himself from the long-standing aesthetic problems
associated with the concept of 'aesthetic emotions' and attempts to
ground the nature of 'emotion' in the fundamental structure of Dasein.
Human being is always open—and at the same time closed—to beings; we
are always already prereflectively disposed to our being in the world
as a whole. Disposition (die Befindlichkeit), which opens the
whole of what is to us to disclose and conceal our world, expresses
itself through different ways of being attuned (die Stimmung) to
and at one with things. Emotions arise out of our being attuned, out of
the rhythm of our involvement with things. Heidegger argues that the
'subject' in its self-consciousness and the 'objective' world of
'facts' are equally derivative abstractions from the unitary structure
of a given rhythm. In Heidegger's estimation, literary works (as well
as other art forms) play an essential role in communicationg
attunements or moods. The work discloses the meaningful whole of a set
of relations. In effect, it manifests the possibilities for being of a
fictional world by giving expression to the governing moods which
modulate the work to attune the different modes of being presented in
it—the being of humans, of nature, of the diviniti3es—to each other.
The modes of attunement of the 'chain of being', as presented
in a literary work, would correspond in some respect to the traditional
plot forms whivch developed in the course of literary history. By the
same measure, tropes articulate the interconnectedness and mutual
sympathy of different modes of being on the microlevel of the work:
hence, Dylan Thomas's 'the force that through the green fuse drives the
flower, / Drives my green age' gathers the human, organic and
inorganic into one articulated whole.
In later works (in his Hölderlin lectures), Heidegger argues that
artworks have the potential to inaugurate, as well as to structure and
communicate, fundamental attunements; their disclosive power is
therefore more primordial than that of rational discourse, for reason
always operates within a horizon of disclosure opened up by an
attunement. Every attunement is historical, not merely in that a
agitates an era, but that the basic, prereflective understanding
inherent in an attunement establishes the rhythm of the
interrelatedness of beings, the how of their manifestation, and that
this rhythm of manifestation inaugurates what we call a 'period' of
history. 'Renaissance melancholy', 'Romantic agony', and the stylistic
period of art history, for example, may thus be read as
conceptualizations of an attunement to beings as a whole. The same goes
for current attempts to define *postmodernism by describing its
characteristic mood (is it boredom? or panic?).
Heidegger's 'The Origin of the Work of Art' (1936), his ifrst major
essay dedicated entirely to the question of art, is central to his
development of the question of being, die Seinsfrage.
While the 'Origin' does not deal with the issue of the meaning of
technology, it is within the horizon of this question that the essay
has to be understood to be made fruitful for us. Two key questions are
posed. (1) Why art? What necessity for this kind of event and this kind
of being in the technological epoch? (2) Why the artwork? What
'originates' the work and in what sense is the work itself an origin?
In his analysis of 'world' in Sein und Zeit, Heidegger
begins with a consideration of equipment and its use. The being of
equipment, of a tool such as a hammer, for example, is circumscribed by
its serviceability and fulfils this being when it unobstrusively
'disappears' into the work-context where it is serviceable. The
particular world, moreover, which gives the use of the tool in its
immediate work-context its 'rationale', also withdraws from view as
long as tools function without breakdown. As Heidegger's late
discussions of technology will propose, the smooth frictionless
functioning of equipment totalities is the telos of the
technological ordering of the modern 'world'. By 'world,' however,
Heidegger ultimately understands the event,
the open horizon of meaningfulness which constitutes the wherefore and
why of technological mastery. 'World' in this dynamic sense is
dissimulated by the functioning of the system of production because it
aims at presenting all that is as available (or unavailable) stock.
Whereas equipment disappears into its functioning, and becomes the
function of an equipmental context, art has the power to 'save' the
phenomena by allowing each thing to come into its own and shine forth
as that which it is. The artwork acts as a kind of midwife to
manifestation, which is to say, to the emergence of truth; its
truth-potential is greater than that of equipment in the rank order of
beings because it allows the things to be—to come into their own—more
fully. In the late essays collected in On the Way to Language
Heidegger allows that it is ultimately the essence of language as
'saying' (die Sage)
which calls upon things to show, to 'own' themselves as that which they
are. The structure of the artwork, moreover, manifests the
world-as-event, bringing it out of the concealment into which it is
cast by the opacity of technological functioning. In this way, by
bringing a world to light, and by saving the phenomena from becoming
transparent functions and weightless simulacra of themselves, art
becomes necessary to the manifestation of the being of beings.
The artwork comprehends the structure of an event which
includes the artist (who comes into being through the work) and the
'audience' (die Bewharenden—the
'preservers')—which 'preserves' the work by letting the work happen,
put itself to work, in their lives. Only in a derivative sense,
therefore, is the work an object of aesthetic contemplatin defined by
its formal qualities. In Heidegger's estimation, the object-being of
art, which is inscribed by cultural critique, institutionalization and
the economics of the art industry, is a relatively static
representation and derivation of its work-being. But neither is the
literary work, for example, a '*text' understood as a subsystem of
signifiers fading away at the edges, as it were, into the context of
'writing in general'. (See *signified/signifier/signification.) The
work has its own, unique self-subsistence and shines forth without the
limits set by its form. The self-subsistence of the work, which
withdraws it from the grasp of conceptuality, is what Heidegger calls
'earth.' The work unites in a fruitful strife the intelligibility of a
world and the self-seclusion and withdrawal of earth. The ways in which
a historical earth and world are attuned to each other gives the work
its unique structure. It is precisely as this unique 'thing'
that the work works
and it works by enacting and incorporating the event of the emergence
of beings. But emergence into manifestation is itself the
primordial sense of 'truth.' Hence the origin of the work is the
happening of truth, inasmuch as it incrporates itself in a being. With
this incorporation, the work itself becomes an origin: for just as a
sculpture, one of Henry Moore's 'Reclining Figures' for example,
creates its own space, so the work opens up a new site, and new
possibilities for being emerge from the rhythm it establishes in the
midst of beings. The work 'legislates' by setting the measure for
beings by overthrowing conventional ways of seeing to found a new law.
Broadly speaking, Heidegger's explication and 'mystical' reflections on
Hölderlin may be considered as a more concrete working out of the
conditions of authentic community and historicity first broached in Being
The lectures devoted to this poet mark a crucial turning in Heidegger's
thought: for example, the potential of art will be unrealized and the
work remain a truncated fragment as long as the earth does not become a
homeland (Heimat) to its peoples. The homeland has nothing to do
with the modern nation-state, for this collective entity is conditioned
by the metaphysical tradition beyond which Heidegger seeks to go. The
homeland rather is as the healing whole of the mutual
attunement of a people and their earth. This attunement realizes itself
in the festival when the wholeness of the homeland sends itself to
humanity in the guise of the messengers (the gods) of the holy. The
poet receives these messengers and incorporates their message in the
work ('Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry').
The seemingly hermetic character of Heidegger's encounter with
Hölderlin apparently offers no way, no methodology, which might guide
us toward the 'same' goal or insight. Hence the frustration of many
commentators (de Man, Fynsk). Yet Heidegger would argue that his
approach to Hölderlin is as rigorously phenomenological (although in a
transformed sense) as his description of Dasein in Sein und
Zeit. In fact, it can be argued that Heidegger's way
to the things themselves, inlcuding the poem, cannot be a methodology.
In section 77 of the Beiträge,
entitled 'Sätze über "die Wissenschaft"' ('Statements Concerning
Science'), Heidegger takes issue with the premises of the modern
sciences (die Wissenschaft includes the human as well as the
natural sciences). Heidegger does not consider science—and thus also
literary theory and criticism to the extent that they aspire to
formulate a methodology and become systematic—as a form of knowledge,
but rather as the derivative institutionalization of a knowledge of of
the truth (the manifestation) of beings. Hence every attempt to
formulate a methodological approach to poetry would exclude itself from
the truth of poetry (which does not mean that a methodology
could not ascertain much that is correct).
Literary theory predetermines the totality of its object area or field
as already known in advance. Its investigations amount to
determinations of the correctness or incorrectness of statements within
the field of the given. It is precisely this presupposition, that
poetry belongs to the already-given, which Heidegger questions (poetry
is rather the radical overthrown of the given if it 'is'—in being [as
origin]—at all). Confirmed in its object-being, on the other hand,
poetry ceases to be poetry and becomes 'literature'; but with the
progressive triumph and pre-eminence of methodology ('theory') over its
subject area, even the object-being of the work implodes—it becomes
'text.' Defined as a cultural object or an ideological structure, as an
expression of the artist or as a formal system, the work is not in
being as a work but merely makes itself available in some
derivative objectification or function of itself and the general
economy which circumscribes it. A 'reform' of method, moreover, cannot
change this state of affairs, because what counts methodologically is
the production of results, not the essential truth of its subject. A
turn in our relation to poetry, Heidegger maintains, is only possible
within the horizon of a fundamentally new attunement to the whole of
what is: only when we cease to think primarily in categories of
production and consumption can poetry come into its own again. While we
cannot will such a turn to come about, a turn in our
to beings can 'overcome' us insofar as we are open to the mystery of
the withdrawal of beings—which postmodernism experiences as the
implosion of phenomena—from the vice-grip of technological calculation.
Heidegger, Martin. Beiträge
zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis). (Gesamtausgabe, vol. 65). Frankfurt
_____. "Das Ende der Philosophie und die Aufgabe des
Denkens." In Heidegger, Zur Sache
des Denkens. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1969.
_____. "The End of Philosophy and the Task of
Thinking." In Heidegger, Basic
Writings. Ed. David farrell Knell. New York: Harper, 1977. 169-92.
_____. "Die Frage nach der Technik." In Heidegger,
Vorträge und Aufsätze. Pfullingen:
_____. "The Question Concerning Technology." In
Heidegger, Basic Writings. Ed. David
Farrell Knell. New York: Harper, 1977. 2873-317.*
Pfullingen: Neske, 1959.
_____. Discourse on
Thinking. Trans. John M. Anderson and E. H. Freund. New York:
43-57. (Trans. of Gelassenheit).
Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik: Welt - Endlichkeit - Einsamkeit.
(Gesamtausgabe, vols. 29-30). 1983.
_____. "Die Herkunft der Kunst und die Bestimmung des
Denkens." In Heidegger, Denkerfahrungen.
Frankfurt a/M: Klosterkann, 1983.
Hymne 'Andenken'. (Gesamtausgabe, vol. 52). 1982.
Hymnen 'Germanien' und 'Der Rhein'. (Gesamtausgabe, vol. 39). 1980.
Hymne "Der Ister." (Gesamtausgabe, vol. 53). 1984.
_____. "Hölderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung." In Erläuterungen
zu Hölderlins Dichtung.
(Gesamtausgabe vol. 4, 33-49).
_____. "Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry."
Trans. Douglas Scott. In Existence and
Being. Ed. Werner Brock. Chicago: Regnery, 1949. 291-315.
_____. Nietzsche I:
Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst. Pfullingen: Neske, 1961.
_____. Nietzsche I:
The Will to Power as Art. Trans. David Farrell Krell. New York:
_____. Sein und Zeit.
Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1927.
_____. Being in Time.
Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. London: SCM, 1962.
_____. Unterwegs zur
Sprache. Tübingen: Neske, 1959.
_____. On the Way to
Language. Trans. Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper, 1971.
_____. "Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes." In
Heidegger, Holzwege. Frankfurrt a/M:
_____. "The Origin of the Work of Art." Trans.
Albert Hofstadter. In Heidegger, Poetry,
Language, Thought. New York: Harper, 1971. 17-87.
_____. "Wozu Dichter." In Heidegger, Holzwege 265-316.
_____. "What Are Poets For?" Trans. Albert Hofstadger.
In Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought.
Bruns, Gerald L. Heidegger's
Estrangements: Language, Truth and Poetry in the Later Writings.
Yale UP, 1989.
Corngold, Stanley. "Sein
und Zeit: Implications for Poetics." boundary 2 4
(Winter 1976): 439-55.
Fynsk, Christopher. Heidegger:
Thought and History. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1986.
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Philosophical
Hermeneutics. Trans. David E. Linge. Berkeley: U of California P,
Haar, Michel. "Le Primat de la Stimmung sur la
coporéité du Dasein."
Heidegger Studies 2 (1986): 67-79.
Halliburton, David. Poetic
Thinking: An Approach to Heidegger. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981.
von Herrmann, F. W. Heideggers
Philosophie der Kunst. Frankfurt a/M: Klostermann, 1980.
Kockelmans, Joseph J. Heidegger
and Science. Washington: UP of America, 1985.
_____. Heidegger on
Art and Art Works. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985.
Levin, David Michael. "Logos and Psyche: A Hermeneutics
of Breathing." Research in
Phenomenology 14 (1984): 121-47.
de Man, Paul. "Heidegger's Exegesis of Hölderlin."
Trans. Wlad Godzich. In de Man, Blindness
and Insight. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983. 246-66.
Marshall, Donald. "The Ontology of the Literary Sign:
Notes Toward a Heideggerian Revision of Semiology." In Martin
Heidegger and the Question of
Literature. Ed. William V. Spanos. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979.
McCormick, Peter. Heidegger
and the Language of the World. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 1976.
Metha, J. L. The
Philosophy of Martin Heidegger. New York: Harper, 1971.
Palmier, Jean-Michel. Les
Écrits politiques de Heidegger. Paris: Editions de l'Herne, 1968.
Vycinas, Vincent. Earth
and Gods: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger.
Martinus Nijhoff, 1969.