Friday, April 13, 2012

"The Lyric I"?

The other day, one of my poet friends on Facebook (I don't remember who, unfortunately) used the expression "the lyric I". This clearly derives from the German expression "das lyrische Ich", and I have always told my students and colleagues here in Basel that an appropriate translation would be "persona." But I have begun to see the expression used occasionally by English speakers far from the German-speaking world. I wonder if it has entered some parts of poetry discourse in the English-speaking word through translations of Adorno.

In any case, I am curious how my friends, acquaintances, and fellows in the poetry world in English find the expression:
  • Do you use it?
  • Have you heard others use it?
  • Does it sound odd you?
And behind all this, of course, is what, for me, is the ultimate question: should I stop telling my German-speaking colleagues to avoid the expression?


Thomas said...

I do use it (though not often). I think I say "the lyrical subject" though, which may not be the same thing. What I mean is the subjectivity that is particular to a poem. The "I" of the lyric.

Presskorn said...

Thomas may, perhaps, have learned the phrase 'the lyrical subject' from Perloff:

Perloff, however, doesn't use the phrase 'the lyric "I"', but she quotes a Michael Davidson for the following:

Michael Davidson, “Hey Man, My Wave!”: The Authority of Private Language,” in Poetics Journal, 6: “Marginality: Public and Private Language,” ed. Barrett Watten & Lyn Hejinian (1986): 33-45. “The ideal of subjectivity itself,” writes Davidson, “. . . is not so much the source as the product of specific sociohistorical structures. The subject upon which the lyric impulse is based, rather than being able to generate its own language of the heart, is also constituted within a world of public discourse. The lyric “I” emerges as a positional relation. Its subjectivity is made possible by a linguistic and ultimately social structure in which ‘I’ speaks” (p. 41).

Andrew Shields said...

I wonder if it arrived in English through translations of Adorno.

Unknown said...

Andrew, old friend -- the new critics used it, it originates with Margarete Susman's 1912 Das Wesen der modernen Lyrik. Definitely NOT persona, but that annihilation of the empirical Ich into a pure structure of subjectivity (well, for Susman -- it's gone downhill afterwards). Clearly indebted to Nietzsche's remarks on the lyrik in Birth of Tragedy. I'm just finishing an article on the lyric we...