Chapter 2: Rilke’s Duino Elegies

This afternoon I finished a new draft of what will be chapter 2 of my book on the standing metaphor. The subtitle is Poēsis and the *sta Constellation. Here the first page.

I published an early version of this in The German Quarterly several decades ago, my very first thoughts on the standing metaphor. Reworking that early work over these last two months has been satisfying—I understand the metaphor in ways I didn’t back then. The photo at the top is of the books I’ve been working with—6 or 7 translations of the Duino Elegies, two biographies, several volumes of Rilke’s letters, two collections of Rilke’s poetry, his novel Malte Laurids Brigge, 5 or 6 scholarly books about the Elegies, and plenty of works I’ve read online.

One discovery, made just yesterday, has left me smiling. Near the end of the chapter, I talk about one of Rilke’s poems called “Gravity.” Rather than translating it myself, I looked around till I found a translation by Albert Hofstadter in his translation of Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought, 102. This volume is the go-to work for readers of Heidegger in English. Hofstadter misconstrues the final line, “reichlicher Regen der Schwere” as “a rich man of weight.” It should be “the rich rain of heaviness.” Oops!

The month of December lies ahead. I’ll revise the introduction, the chapter on Sophocles’ Oedipus and Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and this chapter on Rilke, and then send them to a publisher with a book proposal. Feels good to be at this stage.

Here’s a tentative table of contents:

On Standing: Homo erectus in the Culture of Homo sapiens


Swollen Foot and Vermin: The Oedipus Story, Sophocles’ Oedipus, and Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”

—Excursus: Gustave Moreau’s Oedipus and the Sphinx

  • Rilke’s Duino Elegies: Poēsis and the *sta Constellation

—Excursus: Heidegger, Standing, and Being

  • Poems as Monuments: Byron, Berry, Jarman, Ashbery, Norris, Hass

—Excursus: Hyacinthe Rigaud’s Louis XIV and Gilbert Stewart’s George Washington

  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder: A Radical Peasant Wedding

—Excursus: A Footnote: Botticelli’s Venus (Berlin’s Gemäldegallerie)

  • Standing, Humination, and Resurrection (Auferstehung): Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, and Hans Holbein
  • Dostoevsky’s The Idiot: Resurrection (Anastasia) and the nunc stans (now standing)

—Excursus: Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea

  • As I Stood Fighting: Standing and Stasis in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Toni Morrison’s Home

—ExcursusWinged Victory of Samothrace and Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nana

  • Erection as Self-Assertion in Kleist’s “Die Marquise von O . . .”


  • Crisis and Alternatives to a Phallogocentric Metaphor: Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Luce Irigaray’s This Sex Which Is Not One and Adriana Cavarero’s Inclinations: A Critique of Rectitude


Wish me luck!

Addendum: in the mail today, the new critical edition of Rilke’s works!

And preceding the commentary for the Fifth Elegy, this!

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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4 Responses to Chapter 2: Rilke’s Duino Elegies

  1. Are the standing stones disappearing?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alex caldiero says:

    yes. may Lady Luck shine her light upon yu. Bon lavoro, mio caro amico.


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