On the ‘Poetic Intensity’of Friederike Mayröcker’s Lyrical Poetry

The aim of this project is a comprehensive study of the lyric oeuvre of Austrian author Friederike Mayröcker (*1924). The project puts her poetry into new perspective by examining it in the light of literary intensity studies. Contrary to the so-called “modernity-hypothesis”, according to which modern lyrical poetry forgoes the expression of emotion and replaces it with formal experiment, the study will show that in Mayröcker’s poetry the expression of emotions and formal experiment in no way exclude each other, and further, that her poetry is intensely emotional and highly artificial at the same time. Starting from the hypothesis that the exceptional poetic intensity of her verses stems from the transformation of multiple intensities through language, the study analyses both the poems' formal complexity as well as the complexity of their content, describing them as an expression of an intense attitude towards life (Mayröcker’s famous “poetische Existenz”). By making the question of multiple aspects of lyrical intensity its focus, the study shows how relevant the form—i.e. the highly artificial coding—is for the representation of intense sensations (emotions, thoughts, sensory perceptions etc.). A further aim of the study is to position Mayröcker’s poetry in the context of contemporary lyrical poetry in German and to describe its uniqueness. It shows that Mayröcker’s influence on other poets takes place primarily through her poetry.
In order to illustrate the importance of the concept of “intensity”, the study puts her poems in the context of intensity discourses in the field of Humanities. Among historical concepts of “intensity”, Friedrich Hölderlin’s poetics of intensity is of preeminent importance for Mayröcker’s poetics. Aside from the question, whether Mayröcker can be seen as Hölderlin’s heiress, the study examines to what degree she stands in the tradition of other poets (e.g. Trakl or Celan) and shows her interaction with contemporary artistic and philosophical positions, where her interest is often awaken by what this study terms “intensity”.
Methodologically, the analysis and contextualization of individual poems requires that the perspective of literary criticism be combined with that of other sciences, especially with that of psychology. In the last decades, psychological intensity studies have developed especially promising models for description and analysis of the intensity phenomena, which can be applied with great benefit to Mayröcker’s poetry. One of the main aims of this project is to develop a multidisciplinary based analytical tools.
As animals are among Mayröcker’s characteristic “emotional words” her “animal poems” will additionally be examined from the perspective of interdisciplinary cultural and literary animal studies. Finally, this study is a contribution to the current debate on literary criticism as a life science („Lebenswissenschaft“), which puts the relationship between literature and knowledge at the centre of attention.

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