Joseph Brodsky: A ‘Peremptory Trust in Words’

David‐Antoine Williams

in Defending Poetry

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583546
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595295 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

Joseph Brodsky: A ‘Peremptory Trust in Words’

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By reconstructing a philosophy from his prose and poems, as well as from accounts of his trial proceedings, this chapter provides a grounding for Joseph Brodsky's often repeated but unevenly substantiated maxim that ‘aesthetics is the mother of ethics’. This is a philosophy that depends on notions of creativity, veracity, and privacy—figured by Brodsky as a moment of encounter, or as a direct, tête‐à‐tête or face‐to‐face relation—to supply autonomy to individual experience. Arising from this autonomy, from this radical individualism, are the conditions in which free decisions, and therefore moral choices, can be made. But arriving at these conditions, according to Brodsky, entails a rejection of any deontology—any mandated obligation—in favour of aesthetic, especially of literary, experience.

Keywords: Joseph Brodsky; trial; indifference; estrangement; encounter; face; Soviet Union; Socialist Realism; Heaney; Eliot

Chapter.  18706 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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