Non-Finito: Michelangelo and Rilke
2016 - 2017 (September-December)
Nimrod Reitman (Ph.D. 2015, New York University, Department of German) is a recipient of the Albert Einstein Fellowship (Germany, 2016). His research describes figurations of disjunction in the philosophy and the history of thought in Renaissance and Modernist poetry and their relation to music. His dissertation, “On the Serious Motherhood of Men: Dissonance in Music, Rhetoric, and Poetry,” describes covert maternal tropologies and disruptions effected by femininity in theories of subjectivity. He has also worked as an art curator and is also a classically trained pianist who has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe, Israel and the USA.
The increased interest in literary and artistic fragments since the 19th century has been accompanied by the resurgence of the genius of Michelangelo Buonarroti, whose oeuvre is strongly identified with the technique of the non-finito. Michelangelo’s sculptures display various degrees of unfinishedness, which have always attracted the attention of both his critics and admirers. The debate around his unfinished works displays the problematic status of the fragment as something that despite its perpetual reproductive capacity is still equated to a perfected work, un-fragmented, if only as its imaginary ideal. Aside from unfinished and fragmented sculptures, Michelangelo left more than three hundred Rime, uncovering another aspect of the poetics of his non-finito. An avid collector of fragments, Rainer Maria Rilke translated some of these Rime and attested to their importance for his own poetic development, which for Rilke were perceived as a poetic homecoming even at time of perpetual destitute.
My project juxtaposes Rilke and Michelangelo’s Rime, while attempting to offer a different perspective on the technique of non-finito and the way it inflected the Romantic and Modernist understanding of the fragment. The Project will offer a reading of the importance of Florence as trope and space for Rilke's poetical maturation and will explore the centrality, and at time clandestine, figure of Michelangelo in Rilke's poetic oeuvre both through his engagement with Rodin as well as through his late work on the Duino Elegies.