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Cosmos and corporeality: notes on music in Sachs’s poetry
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.
2014 (English)In: Nelly Sachs im Kontext: Eine ‘Schwester Kafkas’? / [ed] Florian Strob, Charlie Louth, Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014, 51-72 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A thread of music is woven into the texture of Nelly Sachs’s poetry. Her verses evoke a host of musical motifs, in her early work mostly derived from the tradition of Romantic poetry in which music plays so important a part. As Sachs’s language progresses into her mature style, however, the configuration of these motifs is marked by an increasing idiosyncrasy. This article traces the development of two such musically tempered motifs, which recur throughout Sachs’s oeuvre. The first is the notion of a cosmic music: songs sung by the stars and the earth, the moon and the tide. This motif is rooted in the concept of the musica mundana, which organizes the universe but which, in Sachs’s interpretation, has been profoundly disturbed by earthly terror. The second is the conflation of music with emphatically corporeal images of death. In formulations reminiscent of the medieval Totentanz, Sachs casts the dead or wounded body as an instrument played upon by external agencies. These two musical motifs, moreover, are interconnected through a highly personal mysticism that posits a link between the microcosm of the human body, steeped in the concrete, painful experience of everyday existence, and the macrocosm of an intangible and hidden universe beyond the visible world. Thus, not only Sachs’s most original employment of melopoetic imagery, but also the outlines of a worldview that lies at the very core of her poetic project, can be found at the point of intersection between corporeal and cosmic music. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014. 51-72 p.
Keyword [en]
Nelly Sachs, music, poetry
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-125064OAI: diva2:891607
Available from: 2016-01-07 Created: 2016-01-07 Last updated: 2016-01-08Bibliographically approved

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Englund, Axel
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