Perceptions of existence

14th May 2020

News, Student news, Alumni news

The poetry of Yves Bonnefoy and philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy have inspired a new book by Wadham Fellow and Tutor in French, Dr Emily McLaughlin.

  • Yves Bonnefoy and Jean-Luc Nancy: Ontological Performance

    Yves Bonnefoy and Jean-Luc Nancy: Ontological Performance

  • Dr Emily McLaughlin

    Dr Emily McLaughlin, Wadham Fellow and Tutor in French

Yves Bonnefoy and Jean-Luc Nancy: Ontological Performance, explores how poets use different kinds of formal experimentation to change the way we think, allowing us to try out new ways of perceiving existence and positioning ourselves within the world.

The book breaks new ground by investigating the relationship between recent French poetry and theory, using close reading in particular to explore how processes of formal experimentation produce innovative modes of thought.

Reading Bonnefoy's relatively neglected late poetry in the light of Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophy, it investigates how Bonnefoy and Nancy both conceive of writing as a performance that explores the world's creative dynamics of exposure, not from the outside, but from within.

The book situates Bonnefoy, one of France's most prestigious and prolific modern poets, in a new critical arena, exploring how this major writer confronts the most pressing questions in twentieth-century thought: subjectivity, finitude, community, materiality, and aesthetics, says Emily.

“Bonnefoy died only recently, in 2016. Many had long hoped that he would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature but that never happened, unfortunately. He shot to fame with the publication of his first major collection of poetry in 1953 and remained one of France's foremost poets for the rest of his life. Poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, his body of work is immensely wide-ranging. He translated Shakespeare, Keats, and Leopardi. He's also written on artists such as Picasso, Balthus, Giacometti, Mondrian, and Alechinsky, and important books and essays on figures such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Shakespeare,” she adds. 

The book, available in May 2020, is directed at readers of recent French poetry and thought, from university students and researchers, to those who follow contemporary poetics and theory. It is for anyone interested in the overlap between poetry and philosophy, or in the material or non-human turn in literary criticism and philosophy.