The unanswered question : the ethical implications and aesthetic limitations of the unsayable / by Beth Dana Hawkins.
My thesis focuses on the issue of problematic faith in the works of Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, and Edmond Jabès. I suggest that these three authors are primarily concerned with finding, and promoting through the medium of literature, a viable means of faith in light of the spiritual abyss carved open by Nietzsche's “death of God” and the painfully explicit manifestation of this death in the Holocaust. Each of these authors, I suggest, confronts a central dilemma. When silence becomes the most palpable characteristic of the divine nature, the notion of the covenant requires either a rethinking, or a surpassing altogether. Kafka, Celan, and Jabès refuse to renounce the covenantal structure, because they determine that this structure is absolutely crucial for the maintenance of ethics. In Chapter One, I explore Kafka's reconfiguration of the roles of God, the individual, and the writer in light of his claim that he is “creating a commandment.” Ultimately, Kafka comes to view the writer's task as intimately connected with the task of value-construction—the writer writes in the service of creating a human image which is worthy of divine imitation. He promotes a faith characterized by its dynamic nature, grounded in uncertainty and expressed by the persistent asking of unanswerable questions. Chapter Two is an analysis of Celan's poetry. I suggest that his volumes demonstrate a gradual deepening of the relation between self and other, a dialogical relation in Buber's sense of the term. As the covenant is reestablished on the horizontal, rather than vertical plane, less and less can be said about this relation. Celan's language breaks down, begins to resemble a speech-in-silence. Chapter Three is an exploration of Jabès's massive revaluation of God and the covenant in the Book of Questions. His seven volumes constitute an extended rhapsody on the death of God. Moving through the violent murder of the absolute, speaking God, his volumes provide a reconstruction of God in the form of a silent, but palpable other, and finally, a reinscription of the Law within this silence.
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