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Lyric OrientationsHölderlin, Rilke, and the Poetics of Community$
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Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780801456954

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801456954.001.0001

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Figuring Finitude

Figuring Finitude

Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus

(p.156) 5 Figuring Finitude
Lyric Orientations

Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, which centers on the human inhabitation of finitude. The work showed Rilke's struggles to acknowledge and inhabit finitude as he repeatedly recast human relationships to death. This recasting directed attention away from a metaphysical or religious “beyond,” and toward earthly existence. The work also demonstrated that subjectivity is defined by being embodied: sexuality, pain, and sensory particularity form vital components of human existence—all of which require responsiveness to and of the body, the world, other minds, and one's own finitude. In addition, this responsiveness acknowledged the impossibility of certainty, and the costs of defenses of avoidance.

Keywords:   Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, finitude, human inhabitation, human relationships, certainty

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