Friday, January 05, 2018
The Kenyon Review on Thom Gunn's existentialism.
Yet it may be clarifying to pause a moment on the term Geworfenheit (“thrownness”), used by Martin Heidegger to describe the human condition of being “thrown” by birth into a life situation that is undergone instead of being chosen. The human task is then to alter or transform given conditions by choice until we arrive at an existence compatible with our deepest identity. Heideggerian philosophy is one of the sources of Sartre’s Existentialism. In the passage above, Gunn describes motorcycle and rider as “hurler and hurled,” a centaur-like fusion of man and machine where both entities control forward motion through a terrain, though neither does so entirely. When Gunn says that the riders are “astride the created will,” he attributes an Existential agency to the machine, and we can’t fail to see a sexual suggestion as well. The ancient sexual content implicit in the figure of the rider and his mount has here been adapted for a riding machine.
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