Book Chapter

The Poetics of O (as Nothing)



Hass AW (2013) The Poetics of O (as Nothing). In: Price D & Johnson R (eds.) The Movement of Nothingness: Trust in the Emptiness of Time. Aurora, CO: The Davies Group, pp. 167-182.

FIRST PARAGRAPH: The poet and writer W.H. Auden once said: "If a Christian is asked, ‘Why Jesus and not Socrates or Buddha or Confucius or Mahomet?' perhaps all he can say is: ‘None of the others arouse all sides of my being to cry "Crucify Him"' ". I have always been struck by this quote, wondering what it is that would arouse this desire to negate, and to negate not just anyone or anything, but in Christian terms the very reason for our being, or truth itself. Why, if we should choose to believe in something as profound as a divine truth, even a divine redeemer, should we choose to believe only on the basis of its willed negation or annulment? And I should also wonder why it is that a poet offers these words, and not a theologian or a philosopher. They, these words, are in the tradition of Blake, no doubt: and not merely an echo of that famous proverb from Hell - "Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth." - but part of the very marriage of Christ and the Devil, each the negating force of the other, "a coincidentia oppositorum between Christ and Satan", as Thomas Altizer has repeatedly suggested. Why, then, if the poet is correct, is belief based on a negative impulse, an arousal of negation, the arousal of the Devil in Christ, or the Devil in us towards Christ, and why is this impulse or arousal first and foremost poetically driven? What is it about the creative urge that, as Nietzsche taught us, must destroy first before it can build? And what is the building, the making, if, in its intensity, it retains more than a spectre of that negation, and becomes even self-identical with it? These questions we shall pursue by means of the poet - Auden, certainly, but also Shakespeare, whose dramas stage the negative impulse in unexpected ways - in order that we might see how any negation of creation is first a creation of negation.

nothing; negation; W.H. Auden; Shakespeare; creation; crucifixion

Publication date31/12/2013
PublisherThe Davies Group
Publisher URL…enothingness.htm
Place of publicationAurora, CO

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Dr Andrew Hass

Dr Andrew Hass

Reader, Religion