The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 18, Issue 1/4, 2002

William D. Melaney
Pages 159-172

Rilke’s Semiotic Potential
Iconicity and Performance

This article demonstrates how a new reading of Rilke’s poetry can provide a basis for comparing and contrasting the aesthetic approach to art and the language-based approach that foregrounds the role of metaphor and materiality in literary production. Lessing’s Laocoön is discussed in terms of an implied dialogue between painting and poetry, which, however, acquires a different valence when the Fifth of Rilke’s Duino Elegies suggests that poetry itself functions as a ‘metaphorical hypoicon’ allowing for shared meanings. My concluding remarks emphasize the importance of the performing self to a complete understanding of Rilke’s semiotic potential.