|Summary||In a broad comparative structure, this dissertation defines the term "Lettrismus" ("lettrism"), invented by Isidore Isou and adapted by literary studies. "Lettrismus" manifests itself in the art of letters which operates beyond spoken language. "Lettrismus" is described as a strategy of production, combining mystic, ludic and decompositional characteristics in its centre. Decomposition, ludism, and mysticism are the essential aspects of lettrism, which are not especially literary ones; combinatorial, atomistic, analytic and encyclopaedic figures adjoin them. Writing in this mode, allows writing beyond words and beyond meaning of the words.
This structural definition is historically embedded in the avant-garde literature of the 20th century. Italian Futurism, the Surrealism of Apollinaire, the Dada- and "Merz"-Art of Kurt Schwitters, the "Lettrisme" of Isidore Isou and the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (Oulipo) are the major objects of this investigation. This thesis also shows the literary traditions of Lettrism which lead back to ancient concepts of writing and production of texts.
In addition to this, my thesis includes a discussion of the meaning of three-dimensional letters in painting, typography, and architecture, but also the appearance of letters in music. Thus lettrism is not limited to poetry, but to letters.
The tension between the traditions of gramma- and phonocentrism, between spoken and written language, is dealt with as two of the core aspects. Equally I work on the question of how to investigate letters as letters in comparative literary theory. As a result one must define lettrism as a broad phenomenon in the history of art and culture. So far, lettrism has been regarded as a minor movement in poetry, a kind of nonsense literature, developed by a small group of "avantgardists" at the beginning of the 20th century. My thesis sets out to prove the contrary: lettrism reveals the basic prerequisite of literature, the combination of single letters.