Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Jennifer Hoyer of the University of Arkansas examines the work of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke and his twenty-first-century devotee, Lady Gaga.
Dr. Jennifer Hoyer is a professor of German literature at the University of Arkansas where her research interests include German-Jewish history and literature, poetry, 20th-century perceptions of Medieval and Early Modern literature, literary relationships between Germany and Sweden, and the works of Silke Hassler. She holds a Ph.D. in Modern German Literature from the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Jennifer Hoyer - Lady Gaga and Rilke
As a professor of German literature I am keen to point out that Lady Gaga has a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke tattooed on her arm in German. Lady Gaga has often said that she is inspired by, even devoted to Rilke. Read his "Sonnets to Orpheus" and you might be surprised just how much Rilke there is in Gaga's work. Gaga and Rilke have very similar interests, and although they do very different things with them, they ultimately come to the same conclusion: "Gesang ist Dasein," Voice/Song is Being. The "Sonnets" close with the declaration "Ich bin" (I am), which Gaga reflects when she remarked that she is both fantastic storyteller and mirror image: "I am telling you a lie, in a vicious effort that you will repeat my lie until it becomes true."
Rilke's "Sonnets" invoke "Ruhm," or fame, the primary objective of the classical poet. For Rilke the poet is the immortalizer of the dead, the beautiful, the sublime; Gaga's entire project to date deals with fame the modern obsession with celebrity, and what she calls "THE Fame," " that self-love, that inner-confidence." Lady Gaga immortalizes the listener by projecting her own sense of fame onto them in their safe electric chapel. From performances to her interviews with Larry King and Barbara Walters (as the editors of "Gaga-Stigmata" discuss) Gaga appears as a stylized mirror image, neither condoning nor condemning, but confirming through mimicry that we create who we are. And that we are because we create. Gesang ist Dasein.
Rilke's affirmation of being through art inspires Lady Gaga. And if you are interested in Gaga's depiction of fame and being, read Rilke's "Sonnets to Orpheus" preferably in the original German.