Art under duress : trauma, language and witness in Charlotte Delbo and Paul Celan / by Petra Schweitzer.
The aim of my dissertation is to examine the ways in which the Jewish, German-speaking poet Paul Celan and the French writer Charlotte Delbo narrate a catastrophic past. These literary works constitute a testimony to the Holocaust that, I suggest, emerges as a specifically traumatic history. Trauma is understood, in this context, as an event that is not fully experienced when it occurs but returns, repeatedly, in a belated response that compels the victim to encounter that which he or she has not yet fully known. In what ways, I ask in this study, can literature produce form of witness in the face of a memory that may not always be entirely conscious or complete?As victims of the Holocaust themselves, Celan and Delbo describe their experiences of the Nazi extermination camps in a language that can be linked both to individual pasts and to a collective catastrophic history. In two chapters devoted to Delbo and two chapters devoted to Celan, I examine the relation between specific modes of figurative language as it transmits and rearticulates traumatic experience. Through the use of figures—the leg, the deadened self, the silence of language, and the wounded eye—I examine the capacity of language as testimony to articulate what memory continues to resist. In different ways, I argue, the figures that are central to each writer serve to communicate both the challenge of remembering and transmitting the history of the Holocaust and the possibilities for language to change and to create new possibilities for witness in the face of this catastrophic event.
Record last modified: 2018-05-16 16:14:00
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