The Dilation of the Poem (Philippe Jaccottet)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Romance Languages
Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures
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This study of the works of Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet (born in 1925) provides a broad overview of his writing, from his first published poems in the early 1940s to his most recent volume of prose in 2015, and illustrates the various ways in which it emblematizes what could be called a poetics of dilation. My first chapter considers the influence on Jaccottet of the German poet Novalis, who at the turn of the 19th century had envisioned what he called die erweiterte Poësie (“expanded poetry”); via Jean-Christophe Bailly’s recent reflections on la poësie élargie (an adjective that can mean both “expanded” and “liberated”), I in turn derive the notion of dilated poetry, the polysemy of which term is especially suggestive where Jaccottet is concerned. On a formal level, past and present English definitions of dilation account both for the expansion of Jaccottet’s early poème-discours and the dispersal of the later poè`mes-instants as well as of the fragments gathered in the notebooks of La semaison. The second and third chapters further probe poetic experience: the former reexamines Jaccottet’s relationship to images and visibility (the dilation of the poem’s eye), while the latter explores the multivalent motif of blood that runs throughout his writing (the dilation of the poem’s veins). I set out to show that the poet’s encounter with the world is lived first of all as an interdiction, a temporary loss for words before the seemingly inexpressible, and is then brought into language as an entrediction that traces a path between silence and eloquence, music and speech, poet and reader.

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