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The conflict between lyric and autobiographical

Keywords: lyric time, immersion, performativity, hyperbole, apostrophe, fictionality

Several features of lyric poetry – e.g. subjectivity, vague deixis, monologic structure, low mediation, and weak narrativity – provide a good ground for reading lyric texts as a priori reliable and autobiographical. The metatheoretical discussion here takes a lyricological approach to the relationship of referentiality and self-referentiality in lyric poetry with a view to illuminating the general field of tension between the lyric and the autobiographical. The focus of the discussion is on the following five prototypical features of lyric poetry: temporality, immersion, performativity, hyperbole, and apostrophe.

As is proved by case studies, lyric poetry tends to blur the time and space characteristics of autobiographical moments, as far as those are separated from concrete reference. As a result, a specific point in time or space blends into lyric atemporality and sticks together with the uttering present. As for autobiographical material, it is intertwined with the underlying values, figurative system and semantics of the poem; moreover, its authenticity is questioned, thus increasing the probability for the lyric text to be read as fiction. External references are subdued as the focus moves to introspection. The autobiographical element, in turn, undermines lyric by weakening the autonomy and performativity of the lyric text, enhancing the specificity of temporal and spatial deixis, questioning the truth value of the text (lowering its axiomatic reliability), reducing the reader’s option for immersion, restricting textual hyperbolicity and concretizing the addressee.

Thus, in lyric poetry autobiographical material functions differently than in other genres. There is an inherent conflict in the field of tension between the lyric and the autobiographical as autobiographical compromises lyric, while lyric, in turn, transforms the autobiographical of certain moments. On receptive level the process can be described as a scalar one, notably, the more autobiographically we read a lyric poem, the weaker its lyricism, and vice versa.

 

Joosep Susi (b. 1989), MA, University of Tartu, Institute of Cultural Research, Junior Researcher (Ülikooli 16, 51014 Tartu); Tallinn University, Junior Lecturer of Estonian ­Literature; joosep.susi@gmail.com

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