Modes of accompaniment : Paul Celan's language of loss / by Maya Maxym.
This dissertation investigates the ways in which Paul Celan confronts the complexities of the bond between his writing and the unassimilable losses of the Holocaust. For Celan, the Holocaust is an originary groundlessness around which his writing incessantly turns; it paradoxically gives rise to a poetic creativity that does not recuperate the radical losses suffered in this event.Chapter One investigates Celan's claim, in his “Bremen Speech,” that language emerged “enriched” from the Shoah's “thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech” in relation to the paradoxical contemporaneity and reciprocal invasiveness of the wound and scar in his poem “Engführung.” Chapter Two examines the figure of shadow in two poems from Von Schwelle zu Schwelle. I argue that the almost limitless ambiguity and radical loss of the referent that characterize shadowed speech constitute an extraordinarily precise expression of the loss suffered by the poet. Chapter Three examines in detail Celan's silence, which is often approached as the impossibility of speaking the unspeakable. I argue against such an approach by examining several texts that develop a complex concept, encapsulated in Celan's use of the linguistics term muta cum liquida, of haunting accompaniment of poetic speech by a silence that is a necessary and constitutive component of language in the aftermath of catastrophe.My approach to the question of the origin of poetic creativity in catastrophe seeks to respect Celan's resistance to the systematization that a recuperative model of the relationship between loss and gain would entail. For Celan, poetic speech never comes about through a dialectical progression or redemptive transformation of catastrophe. Creativity does not take the place of loss by conquering it, subsuming it into itself, or superseding it; instead, death and loss are a constant accompaniment, a haunting presence, and an ineluctable source for poetic creativity. In this dissertation, I explore how, without false recuperative moves, and without diminishing the radical loss he suffered or giving in to utter despair, Celan affirms that poetry, “gestaltgewordene Sprache eines Einzelnen” (“language-become-form of one single person”), is not only possible, but urgently necessary.
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