Rhythm, the Political, and the Human: Poetic Thinking and the Construction of Reality

Marko Pajević


This article extends Henri Meschonnic’s (1932–2009) theory of rhythm to the notion of Poetic Thinking, demonstrating an often neglected aspect of how language shapes our perception of the world. It starts out from the tradition of Sprachdenken, based on Wilhelm von Humboldt and his notion of languages as worldviews and Meschonnic’s work on rhythm as signifiance, that is, as a meaning-making procedure, following the linguistics of Émile Benveniste. Language as our access to the world goes beyond the communication of extralingual facts: the human world is rather also the result of language processes—these are formative for our perception of things, and hence also for our world. Rhythm understood not as meter, but as prosody and linguistic patterns, with its aterial sound aspects, plays a role in these cognitive processes. In such processes, taking into account Martin Buber’s dialogical thinking, Poetic Thinking is the transforming power in the interaction of the form of life and the form of language that acts when a subject constitutes itself in a creative and dialogical way, transforming the way we perceive the world. This awareness of language as poetic, that is, creative, is explained by referring back to the ancient debate of the universals. It changes our conception of reality, of truth, of ethics, of historicity, of universalism and subjectivity. By changing our epistemological beliefs and our vision of what it means to be human, it is eminently political. (MP)

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