Demonstrating the Impossible – On Derrida’s ‘Che cos’è la poesia?’

Chiara Giardi, University College Freiburg

The text offers an interpretation of Jacques Derrida’s ‘Che cos’è la poesia?’. It compares the author’s definition of the poematic with Roman Jakobson’s poetic function of language in order to highlight how both take distance from poetry as a literary genre, albeit with radically different conclusions. While Jakobson’s poetic function, with its focus on the message, clarifies the difference between signs and objects, Derrida’s poematic entangles form and content to an extent that makes the two impossible to take apart. Therefore, poetic language may be the only way to convey Derrida’s concept of poematic, metaphorically embodied by the hedgehog curling up in the middle of the autoroute as a suicidal act of self-defence. Indeed, according to his description, understanding through translation into one or any languages (i.e. into prose or from French into other languages) would be fatal for the poematic itself, like a car running over the animal. The poematic cannot be understood or explained, it can only be learned by heart and addressed through poetic language.

Keywords: Poetry, translation, hedgehog, poematic, poetic function

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