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.


Download data is not yet available.

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.


Barrell, Joseph, Shelley and the Thought of His Time: A Study in the History of Ideas, New Haven (CT), Yale University Press, 1947.

Bloom, Harold, The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1993.

Butter, Peter, Shelley’s Idols of the Cave, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1954.

Dante, Convivio, in Id., Opere minori, I.II, Eds. Cesare Vasoli - Domenico De Robertis, Milano-Napoli, Ricciardi, 1988.

Freud, Sigmund, “Vergänglichkeit” (1916), trad. it. “Caducità”, Opere, VIII, 1915-1917,Ed. Cesare L. Musatti, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 1976: 173-176.

Giusti, Francesco, “Il meriggio nella natura. Riflessioni estetiche su un’utopia poetica”, Enthymema,9 (2013): 302-322,, online (ultimo accesso 03/06/2014).

Grabo, Carl, The Magic Plant: The Growth of Shelley’s Thought, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1936.

Herrnstein Smith, Barbara, Poetics Closure. A Study of How Poems End,Chicago-London, University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Niebylski, Dianna C., The Poem on the Edge of the World. The Limits of Language and the Uses of Silence in the Poetry of Mallarmé, Rilke, and Vallejo, New York, Peter Lang, 1993.

Notopoulos, James A., The Platonism of Shelley. A Study of Platonism and the Poetic Mind, Durham (NC), Duke University Press, 1949.

O’Neill, Michael, “Shelley’s Lyric Art”, Shelley’s Prose and Poetry, Eds. Donald H. Reiman - Neil Fraistat, 2nd ed., New York, Norton and Co., 2002: 616-626.

Pulos, Christos E., The Deep Truth: A Study of Shelley’s Scepticism, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1954.

Pulos, Christos E., “Scepticism and Platonism”, Modern Critical Views: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ed. Harold Bloom, New York, Chelsea House Publishers, 1985: 31-45.

Recalcati, Massimo, Ritratti del desiderio, Milano, Raffaello Cortina, 2012.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, Poesie 1907-1926, Ed. Andreina Lavagetto, Torino, Einaudi, 2000.

Rogers, Neville, Shelley at Work: A Critical Inquiry,Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1956.

Ronchi, Rocco, “L’etica psicoanalitica e la dialettica della Legge”, Lo Sguardo, 8 (2012): 161-173.

Ronchi, Rocco, “L’intuizione cieca”, Attualità di Lacan, Eds. Rocco Ronchi - Alex Pagliardini, L’Aquila, Textus, 2013: 17-36.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, Eds. Donald H. Reiman - Neil Fraistat, New York, Norton, 2002.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, Poesie, Ed. Giuseppe Conte, Milano, Rizzoli BUR, 1998.

Sini, Carlo, Etica della scrittura,Milano-Udine, Mimesis, 2009.

Strauss, Walter, Descent and Return. The Orphic Theme in Modern Literature, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1971.

Valesio, Paolo, Ascoltare il silenzio: la retorica come teoria, Bologna, il Mulino, 1986.

Wallace, Jennifer, “Shelley, Plato and the political imagination”, Platonism and the English Imagination, Eds. Anna Baldwin - Sarah Hutton, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994: 229-241.

Wolfson, Susan J., The Questioning presence: Wordsworth, Keats, and the Interrogative Mode in Romantic Poetry, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1986.

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