With his hallmark forceful discernment, George Steiner offers The Poetry of Thought as his magnum opus: an examination of more than two millennia of Western culture that argues on behalf of the essential oneness of great thought and great style. Sweeping yet precise, moving from essential detail to bracing illustration, Steiner spans the entire history of philosophy in the West as it entwines with literature, finding that, as Sartre stated, in all philosophy there is “a hidden literary prose.”
“The poetic genius of abstract thought,” Steiner believes, “is lit, is made audible. Argument, even analytic, has its drumbeat. It is made ode. What voices the closing movements of Hegel’s Phenomenology better than Edith Piaf’s non de non, a twofold negation which Hegel would have prized? This essay is an attempt to listen more closely.”
The Poetry of Thought is denser in its language, more disquieting in its arguments, more in line with Steiner’s stronger works, such as Heidegger and many of the essays collected in No Passion Spent Steiner’s overall subject here is the interlocked nature of poetic language and philosophical thought, and how the intellect manifests itself through this connection.