Sunday, December 09, 2007

Literature and You

My favorite line of poetry is from Rainer Maria Rilke in "The Archaic Torso of Apollo:"

for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rilke tells us what art does to you, the individual. It sees you. You cannot hide from it. Great literature exposes you to yourself, showing you everything about yourself. "here there is no place that does not see you." There is no hiding, no acting, no lying: you are exposed. The literature shows you to yourself.

When you read great literature, there is no place that does not see you. It tells you what you are, what you are not, and what you should strive to be.


  1. Thanks for these lovely comments about Rilke, art, and literature. You and your readers might like to know about LOST SON, the new novel based on Rilke's life and work.

    More at


  2. Isn't this the concept of negative capability? I was taught about this concerning Shakespeare's work. From my understanding it was pretty much the belief (or fact?) that art should(does?) teach us about ourselves. The author should never come out and state what he/she wants us to believe or gain from the art, he/she should let the art speak for itself and then in turn the effect it has on us is different for everyone. For instance, one person may read the Merchant of Venice and find it to be a play that supports antisemitism while someone else could read it and find it to be in support of equal rights. And we've discussed this already in terms of the ending Hamlet so I don't even know why I'm still going on about this.

    And I don't know if this is completely off base or not, just throwing it out there. It's finals week and I don't know what's going on anymore.