How the Panther Stole the Poem: The Search for Alterity in Rilke’s Dinggedichte

Claire Y. Van den Broek


Rilke’s letters and diaries of the early Paris years reflect the young poet’s pre-occupation with man’s ability to come to terms with the knowledge of his own mortality, as well as his personal fears of being in the critical eye of society, of feeling like the eternal outsider. Looking at Rilke’s Dinggedichte, especially “Der Panther,” as well as his Duineser Elegien, this article examines the influence of Rodin’s sculptural work and Lessing’s theory of art on Rilke’s poetry, in order to argue that Rilke attempted to produce a poetic process that offers or models a liberation from the limitations of humanity through the artistic elevation of the reader. This article argues that Rilke believed this elevation would require our surrender to alterity, that is, our acceptance of an altered relationality which would grant us the “wings” to understand and ascend to the level of the eternal, limitless Kunst-Ding. (CYvdB)

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