Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the Duino Elegies between 1912 and 1922 at the Duino Castle on cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Trieste in Italy. While out walking he claimed to hear a voice calling to him the first lines of the first Elegy: ‘Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies of angels?’
In this course we will study the relationship between tradition and modernity, and what Heidegger calls the ‘trace of the holy,’ in the Dunio Elegies. Rilke suffered from the new conditions of modernity, moving between between the city and the country, and questioning whether he should stop writing poetry and begin psychoanalysis. Ultimately, with the Duino Elegies, he achieved his aim of finding meaning in his suffering and providing, as he describes it, ‘peace’ and ‘safety’ to the readers of his poetry.
We will read selections from Rilke’s novel, art writing, and letters, to contextualise the Duino Elegies and to consider more broadly the role of the poet in modernity.
- The First Elegy and The Second Elegy
For all primary readings we will refer to this version:
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Duino Elegies: A Bilingual Edition. Trans. Edward Snow. Northwestern University Press, 1998.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
- The Third and the Fourth Elegy
- Martin Heidegger, ‘What are poets for?’
- The Fifth Elegy and the Sixth Elegy
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin
- The Seventh Elegy and The Eighth Elegy
- Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
- The Ninth Elegy and The Tenth Elegy
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus