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Auerbach Lecture | 13.05.2024 | 18 Uhr

Rochelle Tobias (Modern Languages and Literatures, Baltimore): Countenancing the Stars. Thinking and Being in Rilke’s Spanische Trilogie


The shepherd in Rilke’s “Spanische Trilogie” (1913) is often said to evince a new mode of being in which the self and nature no longer stand opposed to each other but exist in a relation of mutual dependency. In this talk, I will argue that the shepherd is a more complex figure in his dual role as a visible finite body and an invisible celestial body whose sole activity lies in thinking itself continually and in so doing generating a world. Taking as its point of departure Aristotle’s notion of the Unmoved Mover as the divine intellect, this talk contends that being and intelligibility are inseparable terms not only in Aristotle's Metaphysics but also in Rilke’s later work. Nowhere is this more evident than in the shepherd, who, on the one hand, inhabits the landscape as a discrete figure and, on the other, encompasses it as the intellect that sustains it as something thought and as a poem in the making. I conclude this discussion by drawing a link between the act of thinking and the objects thought in Aristotle and noesis and noema in classical phenomenology.

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