Book Section
‘The Staircase Wit; or, The Poetic Idiomaticity of Herta Müller’s Prose’ explores idioms and Sprachbilder as poetic views of the mother tongue. This exploration involves a special focus on Müller’s Nobel lecture, considered as both a compendium and an enactment of her meditations on language, on the nature of writing, and on the creative process. While Müller frequently employs idioms in her articles, lectures, and novel titles, she never uses them in a superficial way or as a mere reproduction of common or daily speech. Rather, as this essay argues, idioms in Müller’s prose are indicative of her attitude toward language and toward the mother tongue in general. In the Nobel lecture as well as elsewhere, idioms serve a dual, occasionally conflicting purpose, combining the need for the ‘singularity’ of aesthetic experience with the search for a new kind of ‘conventionality’.
Keywords: Herta Müller; Nobel lecture; idioms; poetry; mother tongue; singularity; conventionality
Title
The Staircase Wit
Subtitle
or, The Poetic Idiomaticity of Herta Müller’s Prose
Author(s)
Antonio Castore
Identifier
Description
‘The Staircase Wit; or, The Poetic Idiomaticity of Herta Müller’s Prose’ explores idioms and Sprachbilder as poetic views of the mother tongue. This exploration involves a special focus on Müller’s Nobel lecture, considered as both a compendium and an enactment of her meditations on language, on the nature of writing, and on the creative process. While Müller frequently employs idioms in her articles, lectures, and novel titles, she never uses them in a superficial way or as a mere reproduction of common or daily speech. Rather, as this essay argues, idioms in Müller’s prose are indicative of her attitude toward language and toward the mother tongue in general. In the Nobel lecture as well as elsewhere, idioms serve a dual, occasionally conflicting purpose, combining the need for the ‘singularity’ of aesthetic experience with the search for a new kind of ‘conventionality’.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
September 4, 2023
Subject
Herta Müller
Nobel lecture
idioms
poetry
mother tongue
singularity
conventionality
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Language
en-GB
page start
181
page end
210
Source
Untying the Mother Tongue, ed. by Antonio Castore and Federico Dal Bo, Cultural Inquiry, 26 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2023), pp. 181–210

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Cite as: Antonio Castore, ‘The Staircase Wit: or, The Poetic Idiomaticity of Herta Müller’s Prose’, in Untying the Mother Tongue, ed. by Antonio Castore and Federico Dal Bo, Cultural Inquiry, 26 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2023), pp. 181-210 <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-26_9>