English Faculty Database
Arts & Sciences
Duke University

 HOME > Arts & Sciences > English > Faculty    Search Help Login pdf version printable version 

Publications [#357308] of Thomas Pfau

Essays/Articles/Chapters in Books

  1. Pfau, T. "Absolute Gegebenheit: Image as aesthetic Urphanomen in Husserl and Rilke." Phenomenology to the Letter: Husserl and Literature.  2020. 227-260. [doi]
    (last updated on 2021/10/26)

    My essay opens with a brief review of Husserl's 1905 lectures on "Phantasie und Bildbewusstsein. " It then moves on to consider how, in his short monograph on Rodin and the letters on Cezanne, Rilke develops a phenomenology of image experience that complements Husserl's noematic focus with concentration on the noetic dimension of aesthetic experience in Rilke's writings on art and his Neue Gedichte. What is definitive of the latter is a confrontation with the absolute givenness of images and their material presuppositions: color and light. In their mute yet insistent materiality, Rodin's sculptures and Cezanne's canvases raise the possibility that the noematic may be anterior to the noetic. For in their alien, silent, and unfathomable "thingness, " these aesthetic phenomena compel consciousness to suspend its quest for a lexical or referential decoding of the image object. Instead, Rilke sees the beholder of Rodin's sculptures becoming the unsuspecting witness and virtual collaborator in the thing's primordial creation: "[Rodin] hatte ihn gemacht, wie Gott den ersten Menschen gemacht hat [...] namenloses Leben. [...] Da ubersetzt sich [...] wahrend der Arbeit das Stoffliche immer mehr in Sachliches und Namenloses. " In its encounter with the aesthetic phenomenon, the noetic function approaches a condition of mystic silence: "Es entsteht eine Stille; die Stille, die um Dinge ist. Der zu nichts gedrangten Dinge. " Anticipating Husserl's idea of a "transcendental reduction" (epoche), Rilke finds in Cezanne's paintings prima facie evidence of what he calls "die Dingwerdung, die durch sein eigenes Erlebnis an dem Gegenstand bis ins Unzerstorbare hinein gesteigerte Wirklichkeit. "

Duke University * Arts & Sciences * English * Faculty * Staff * Grad * Scholars * Post-Docs * Reload * Login