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Surrealism and the Holocaust : an inquiry into the epistemological and ideological structure of Paul Celan's language / by Clarise Shorrock Samuels.

Publication | Library Call Number: PT2605.E4 Z749 1990

The purpose of this study is to establish an existentialist framework for the poetry of Paul Celan, a framework that provides an epistemological foundation for the surrealistic program that Celan uses to create a consistent Holocaust theme, a Holocaust universe. Celan's surrealistic style provides an ideological dimension, and this ideology parallels an underlying, existentialist epistemology. Chapter 1 reviews the current trends in Celan literature and the varied approaches with which the critics have interpreted his work. In Chapter 2 the ideology that supports the surrealistic program is traced beginning with Dada and Andre Breton's Manifestoes of Surrealism. Breton uses Freud to organize a system that gives the artist access to the subconscious mind for creative ideas, and then evaluates their worth and content with Freudian techniques. Breton then turns to Hegel and Marx to give the surrealist artist a sociopolitical program that lends a meaningful context to the nihilistic and revolutionary aspects of surrealism. This ideology parallels underlying tenets of existentialism, wherein the absurdity of the surreal image corresponds to the existentialist belief that existence is absurd. Theoretical statements made by Celan in speeches and elsewhere support this view. Chapter 3 examines the choice and manipulation of motives in Celan's poetry, and connects these motives to the poet's encompassing existentialist view. The motives are divided into four categories: space, time, person, and action. In Chapter 4 Celan's incongruous images and their pervasive absurdity are then studied along with their effect--a basic negativity that pervades all of his language. To the motive categories is added a fifth area or the evolving thematic motive, which in Celan's case is the Holocaust. Celan constructs in his surrealistic poetry not a universe whose absurdity is intended to be ludicrous, but a Holocaust universe that is grounded in a realist's epistemology and its existentialist variant, that is to say, its deadly seriousness and hopelessness--a hopelessness which Celan, now and then, attempts to transcend through his poetry.

Samuels, Clarise, 1954-
Record last modified: 2018-05-29 16:28:00
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