Literature as a defining trait of the human umwelt: From and beyond Heidegger

Pierre-Louis Patoine, Jonathan Hope


Writers and readers of literature are, among other things, biological en tities that evolve under particular political (geographical/historical) conditions. A comparative study of certain texts by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) can help us establish a fruitful interpretation of this threefold link between literary art, biology and politics. However, careful analysis reveals that Heidegger remains too rooted in an old-world, nationalistic and anthropocentric paradigm. We will attempt to rethink Heidegger’s assumptions on the grounds that literature, a cultural practice, enables us to delineate our natural environment. By reformulating Heidegger’s line of thought, we can more precisely address the plural structure of our biotic and political-literary experiences.


literature; body; habitat; Heidegger; politics

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SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia