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“A Girl, Almost”: R. M. Rilke's False Female Self

Written by eastern writer on Saturday, May 31, 2008

Only the Hermaphrodite

is complete in its plight.

We search against the odds

for the lost half of these half-gods.

Rilke, Orchards

Rilke's insistence on living a life of “poetic inwardness” is notable, even given cultural notions of artistic solitude (Holthusen, 1952). Strikingly, however, his artistic detachment did not extend to those who acknowledged his “inner maiden.” Rilke said of the philosopher Kassner, “He is the only one with whom I can do anything. He is the only one to whom it occurs to use a little of what is feminine in me” (letter of May 1, 1910). The reclusive poet was also a frequent guest of the Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe who recognized that Rilke could not work “without sensing the aura of a woman around him” (cited in Leppmann, 1984, p. 285). Moreover, the work itself was conceived by Rilke as a “vital fruitfulness of soul. The birth process which in a purely spiritu

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