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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Languages of Light Lecture - Tenebrae, Lightenings: Poetry in the Clearing

27th February 2014, 17:00 to 18:00, Room A56, Elvet Riverside Building, New Elvet, Dr Ian Cooper (University of Kent)

The lecture discusses two modern poets – Paul Celan and Seamus Heaney – in the context of Heidegger's thought about the 'clearing'. Celan and Heaney share a deep affinity with the Heideggerian idea of absence shaping all significant presence, and articulate this in poetry that is rich in movements of light and darkness.

Especially the notion of the clearing-the empty space in which Being manifests itself-provides terms for reading their work together. In the first half of the talk Dr Cooper suggests a new reading of one of Celan's best known poems, 'Tenebrae', in relation to Heidegger's thoughts about the fate of Being in modernity as laid out in his work on technology, seeing 'Tenebrae' as offering a response to some of Heidegger's deepest claims. In the second half of the talk Dr Cooper takes 'Tenebrae' as a frame for looking at Heaney's poetic sequences 'Clearances' and 'Lightenings', in which the theme of light is used to express 'unconcealment' in Heidegger's sense, while at the same time these poems go beyond Heidegger (and join up with Celan) in their understanding of finitude and gift. Other poets touched on in the talk include Hölderlin, George Herbert and Philip Larkin.

About the speaker

Ian Cooper is Lecturer in German at the University of Kent, having previously held research fellowships in Cambridge and Germany. He works mainly on poetry in German and English in the context of modern German thought, and has published 'The Near and Distant God: Poetry, Idealism and Religious Thought from Hölderlin to Eliot' (Maney, 2008); he is currently working on a monograph about Heidegger, Celan, Heaney and Les Murray. He co-edited and contributed to the volume on 'Aesthetics and Literature' in CUP's four-volume publication on 'The Impact of Idealism' (2013).

Refreshments will be served. All welcome.


(This talk was originally scheduled for December 5 but cancelled due to inclement weather)

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