Sum—Lyric as Self-Manifestation of Language and its Ontological Power of Creation

Especially lyric calls language back to its self-manifestational function, which is more basic than its representational and discursive functions. The latter are rather functions of presence produced through self-reflection. Originarily, language is the immediate self-disclosure of being.' Indeed, the lyric in its self-enclosure does not relate to its world primarily by means of codified referring so much as by means of iconic imitation, graphic and phonetic incarnation, and other ritual forms of “repetition” in which language fundamentally performs its meaning rather than just representing it? Already in its prosodic rhythms, lyric offers a reenactment and embodiment of being that is more immediate and concrete than any representational content or referencing of an object? Lyric language often connects unconsciously with exemplars from the past and with timeless archetypes? Language thus relates indirectly to a world outside itself, which it models and enables to become actual in linguistically determinate modes of being.

In this sense, therefore, it is possible to see referentiality as only a limited version—the visible cap, so to speak, or surface—of language’s innate orientation to self-transcendence through reflexivity performed in the image of a Trinitarian God. The exaltation of reference to the status of an absolute—and the consequent denaturing of language to the status of a tool or transparent medium—is tantamount to imprisoning the power of language, as if this power depended merely on language’s referencing a world of external objects. Instead, we have seen that language

  • 1 Heidegger’s On the Way to Language powerfully expounds the discourse of language as the self-disclosure of Being, and Gadamer’s Truth and Method, Part III, extends this vein of speculation by developing a “linguistic ontology.” This thinking is examined later in sections 55-56.
  • 2 Heinz Schlaffer, Geistersprache: Zweck und Mittel der Lyrik (Munich: Carl Hanser, 2012), analyzes these extra-representational functions of lyric language in their historical emergence from cult and ritual.
  • 3 Henri Meschonnic, Critique du rythme: Anthropologie historique du langage (Paris: Verdier, 1982).
  • 4 Carl Gustav Jung, “Psychologie und Dichtung” (1950), in Gesammelte Werke 15 (Düsseldorf: Patmos-Walter Verlag, 1979), 3rd ed., 97-120. derives its referential power from its repetition of a transcendent Source and Origin through its own inherent dynamic of self-reflection. Having seen this dynamic at work in Dante’s Paradiso as an inaugural exploration and invention of the possibilities of self-reflection for generating sense in and through language, we turn in Part IV to working out these essential insights in the history of Western thinking subsequent to, but in continuity with, Dante.


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