The Ethos of Poetry


Individuals undergoing disturbing, painful, or traumatic experiences often recount of being exposed to an incomprehensible ‘foreignness’ or ‘strangeness’ in the face of which ‘conventional’ discourses, such as the clinical, the conceptual, or the critical, break down and fail to accommodate their need for expression. The ambition of this project is to survey whether and how a poetic employment of language may offer a liberating potential for individuals experiencing psychopathological disturbances and thus to reach a new understanding of poetic language as a possible resource for alleviation or relief. In order to reach this ambition, the project will pursue a two-folded strategy: First, by executing in-depth analyses of various poetic works, first-person perspective texts, and anonymized clinical vignettes, the project seeks to understand poetic language as an ethos. This ethos should not be understood a code of conduct or a set of moral beliefs, but as a resourceful way of existing in the world and of (re)making sense of existence that may have come to seem nonsensical and meaningless. Second, working across the disciplines of philosophical aesthetics, literary criticism, existential psychopathology, and psychoanalysis, the project aims at developing an “ethico-aesthetic paradigm,” which emphasizes the inextricability of ethics and aesthetics in succinctly approaching and understanding psychopathological phenomena without reducing their idiomatic singularity.


Private (National)




Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy

Collaborative partners:

Universität der Künste Berlin, Kingston University



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