PDC Homepage
Home » Products » Purchase

Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 21, Issue 1, 2021

Aethetics and Philosophy of Art

Philip MillsOrcid-ID
Pages 111-133

Doing Things with Words
The Transformative Force of Poetry

Against the apparent casting away of poetry from contemporary philosophy of language and aesthetics which has left poetry forceless, I argue that poetry has a linguistic, philosophical, and even political force. Against the idea that literature (as novel) can teach us facts about the world, I argue that the force of literature (as poetry) resides in its capacity to change our ways of seeing. First, I contest views which consider poetry forceless by discussing Austin’s and Sartre’s views. Second, I explore the concept of force in the realm of art—focusing on Nietzsche’s philosophy and Menke’s Kraft der Kunst—and the relations between linguistic, artistic, and political forces. Third, I consider how the transformative force of poetry can be considered political by turning to Kristeva’s Revolution in Poetic Language and Meschonnic’s conception of poetry according to which the poem does something to language and the subject. To illustrate this transformative force of poetry, I analyse Caroline Zekri’s poem ‘Un pur rapport grammatical’. I therefore think of poetry not only as doing something with language, but also as doing something to language. To rephrase Austin’s famous title, and thus reverse his evaluation of poetry, poetry might reveal us not only How to Do Things with Words, but how to do things to words and, through this doing, how to transform and affect the world.