RSA 2013 Proposed Panel: "Heidegger and Humanist Poetics"--June 8th, 2012

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Joshua Brazee / University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Renaissance Society of America 2013 (San Diego): In the 1980s, Ernesto Grassi, friend and student of Martin Heidegger, attempted to rescue Renaissance Humanism from Heidegger’s condemnation, “every Humanism begins with a definition of the essence of man and so with an anthropological philosophy.” Grassi, through a Heideggerian lens, reinterprets the work of humanist Italian poets to argue that while medieval thinking “proceeds from an ontology, a theory of beings…the specific Humanistic process of thought begins with the problem of words, above all the poetic idiom.” The crucial difference is that while ontologies fix the meaning of language and thus the meaning of beings, humanist poetic thinking understands language as historical. Humanist poetic language resists fixing the meaning of beings, never foreclosing possibilities. This panel asks what we have learned about humanist poetics, directly or indirectly, from Heidegger’s thinking about language and poetry. Does Grassi’s reinterpretation still make sense of Italian humanism? Can it be broadened to include other vernacular Renaissance poets, especially those of the English Renaissance? How does Heidegger’s “unfixed” poetic language make sense of the historicity which a Dante or a Spenser attributes to poetic language? Does Heidegger’s understanding of the work of art as emerging from the strife between earth and world resonate with or clarify humanist understandings of the figure? To propose a paper, please send an abstract of 150 words and a 1-page CV by June 8th to Joshua Brazee at

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