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Lyric Disposition

Lyric Disposition

(p.55) Chapter Two Lyric Disposition
Cartesian Poetics
Andrea Gadberry
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the famous encounter with the evil genius in the Meditations and shows how poetic structure navigates thought’s relationship to its own independence and to the specter of desire. As Descartes appropriates the technique of the blazon and counter-blazon from the tradition of Petrarchan and post-Petrarchan poetry, he wards off the seductive and solicitous approach of the evil genius, itself a threat to thinking and truth. In disposing of the body through these poetic means, Descartes shows how poetry and thinking are yoked closely together—so much so, in fact, that it might be said that, for him, poetry makes thinking happen. Central to this chapter is asking again what thinking is for Descartes and, in particular, what it has to do with seduction and desire. Further, Descartes’ related notion of “disposition” unsettles the purity of thinking and also recenters the problem of poetry by way of the rhetorical structure of “dispositio,” which exposes an overlooked element in the story authors of more recent theory like to tell about the “dispositif.” In showing how “disposition” and seduction go together, this poetic arrangement clears Descartes of the charge that his philosophy “slashed poetry’s throat.”

Keywords:   lyric, blazon, evil genius, thinking, poetry, Descartes, seduction, disposition, mimesis, Petrarch

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