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Title page for ETD etd-04092007-154516

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Schlee, Claudia Simone
URN etd-04092007-154516
Title The poem as periodic center: complexity theory and the creative voice in Nietzsche, Gottfried Benn and Wallace Stevens
Degree PhD
Department German
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John A. McCarthy Committee Chair
Dieter Sevin Committee Member
Elizabeth R. Horan Committee Member
Meike Werner Committee Member
William Franke Committee Member
  • gottfried benn
  • emerson
  • nietzsche
  • wallace stevens
  • mimesis
  • complexity theory
  • creativity
Date of Defense 2007-04-02
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation proposes a new interpretation of the concept of mimesis, viewed through a recent paradigm derivative of the natural sciences: complexity theory. The apparent universality of what are considered complex phenomena suggests that human systems, such as historical and cultural events, societies, and also narratives, are shaped by seemingly “chaotic” scenarios. Rejecting reductionism and determinism, chaos and complexity theory favour a holistic embrace of complexity and flux.

In this project, complexity theory provides a matrix for examining the deep structure that underlies the act of creating a poem. In an analytical study of selected works by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Friedrich Nietzsche I establish the link between the natural sciences and the humanities by extending to the moral realm the notion of nature’s relentless drive to create. The concept of autopoiesis forms the basis of my discussion of Emerson’s and Nietzsche’s concepts of defining the self. The continuous re-creation of the self within its environment also underlies my subsequent analyses of poems by two twentieth-century poets, Gottfried Benn and Wallace Stevens.

This dissertation suggests that the act of poetic creation in the continuous and dynamic re-creation of form is grounded in natural forces themselves. In a world of ever changing and fleeting phenomena, the poem functions like a periodic center, that is as a salutary moment of confluence between subject and object.

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