Silence is golden? Language, Ineffability and Spirituality in Modernity Poetry

Organisers: Diego Terzano (University of Pisa) & Bart Van den Bossche (KU Leuven)

Over the past two decades, many scholars across the humanities have approached silence as a philosophical and aesthetic notion (see Loevlie 2003; Mortara Garavelli 2015) and have analysed it as a pragmatic form of violence (Olsson 2013), a meaningful form of negativity (Wolf-Bernhart, eds,2016), or an indirect or eloquent discourse (Bindeman 2017; Gould 2018). Inspired by these and other contemporary approaches, this panel aims to focus on the manifold roles and manifestations of silence in poetry of the modernist period. More in particular, the panel intends to address the crisis of denotative language in poetry since the late nineteenth century, modernist poetry’s metalinguistic stance, and the connections between silence, ineffability, and spirituality (with the paradoxical condition of eloquent absence or silent wholeness). Topics to be treated may include (but are not limited to): 1) poetic evocations, representations and discussions of silence; 2) aposiopesis (interruption), reticence, and other figures of speech; 3) silence and formal features (blank spaces, typography,…); 4) the treatment of the limits of language, particularly of denotative language; 5) the debate about “pure” or “abstract” poetry.


Francesco Ottonello (University of Bergamo) – Ganymede a Figure of Silence: A Modernist Reworking of the Myth in Saba’s Mediterranee

Simone Turco (University of Genoa) – Emptying Fullness, Filling Emptiness. The Silence of Signs and the Transcending of Speech in the Modernist Experience

Enaiê Mairê Azambuja (University of London) – The Zen-Inflected Apophatic Ecopoetics of William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and E. E. Cummings

Lucia Battistel (LUMSA) – The Eloquence of Silence: Spoken and Unspoken Word in Mario Luzi’s Poetry

Parul Tiwari (Indian Institute of Technology) – The Promise of Truth: a ‘Silent Theatre in Mallarmé’s Poetry

Matteo Zupancic (Istituto di Studi Germanici/University of Stuttgart) – «Wie eine hohle Form». On Rainer Maria Rilke’s Kenotic Modernism