“Blick und Gebärde”: Embodied Perception in Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge

Robert Britten


This article reassesses the claim by Rainer Maria Rilke’s protagonist Malte that he is “learning to see”, a statement often understood to distinguish between an acquired, artistic gaze and supposedly superficial ordinary perception. Challenging this interpretation, it expands on scholarship that has shifted attention away from vision, proposing that Malte’s experience is best understood not simply as multimodal, but as grounded in acts of embodied world-engagement. Against the backdrop of recent enactivist theorizing in the philosophy of perception the article demonstrates that rich experiences, mundane or strange, are not the prerogative of the artist, instead relying on the same embodied capacities that underlie ordinary life. While Malte struggles with the relationship between perceptual experience and language, the novel itself is a testimony to the power of literary description to make such experience salient: not through a recreation of a specifically poetic gaze, but through closely-paid attention to the perceptual acts that bring it about. (RB)

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