Back to Silence: Lyric Discourse, Subjectivity and Desubjectivation

  • Francesco Giusti
Keywords: lyric, discourse, subjectivity, subjectivisation, desubjectivisation, Shelley, Rilke


According to the definition promoted by Western philosophical tradition, poetry would not be a speaking of things in the logical sense of providing a shareable definition nor a speaking to things as addressees of a message. It would rather be an uttering that the thing purely is, without saying what it is or how it is. It would be a revealing and manifestative language, and not an onto-logical one. Through a careful reading of two exemplary poems: Shelley’s Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and the seventh of Rilke’s Duino Elegy, the article wants to understand if such a ‘revealing language’ is a feasible possibility for the lyric – that is to say, a specific form to be adopted –, or rather it is one of the opposing models employed by the discourse of the logic to identify its practice distinguishing itself from the alternatives and, in turn, it is the ideal model adopted by the lyric discourse to establish itself as autonomous from the defining discourse of Western logic. The main aim is to distinguish, in the cases taken into consideration, what poetry says it wants to be and what it makes instead in its practice. It seems that subjectivation happens in the attempt/effort to construct a sense, which is a never ending and never definitive operation. But, in the lyric, what gives a direction to such an operation seems to be a desire for desubjectivation, because achieving the fullness of presence and sense the Western subject, whose subjectivity is defined as always looking for a sense, must disappear. The article wants to catch the irreducible difference between lyric saying and lyric making itself to understand how the two levels of its rhetorical construction interact in the text.

Author Biography

Francesco Giusti
Francesco Giusti graduated (BA and MA) in Comparative literature at the University of L'Aquila and, in 2012, he obtained a PhD in European Literature and Culture at the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane (SUM) supervised by Professors Piero Boitani (Sapienza University of Rome) and Zygmunt Baranski (Emeritus University of Cambridge). Then he held a British Academy Research Fellowship at the University of York. His areas of research are: history and theory of lyric poetry; philosophical, psychoanalytic and cognitive aesthetics; medieval literatures and their reception in contemporary literature and art. He has published many articles in Italian and international journals, such as Modern Language Notes, The Italianist, Italian Studies, Linguistica e Filologia, Otto/Novecento, Between, Intersezioni, Compar(a)ison, Contemporanea, Rinascimento, Enthymema, Strumenti Critici.


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How to Cite
Giusti, F. (2014). Back to Silence: Lyric Discourse, Subjectivity and Desubjectivation. Between, 4(7).
From the Fields of Theory. Rethinking the Functions of Rhetoric