Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's that time of year...

To-Do (due dates up front)
  • (5.2.08) Grade papers for Modern Jewish lit
  • (5.5.08) Presentation for Poetry after Auschwitz
  • (5.14.08) Paper for Poetry after Auschwitz
  • (5.19.08) Paper for The Limits of Elightened Discourse
  • (5.21.08) Finish all grading and Grade exams for German A
  • (5.29.08) Grade exams for Modern Jewish lit
Italic = done

Notes and Wordlist from a Discussion of Paul Celan

Suggested Theme in Celan: Tradition

I suggested that,
in order to look at Celan as independent of the Holocaust, we look at his injection of tradition into his poems as evidence of a more generic kind of disorientation about tradition (religious, cultural, familial). It struck me that this is also a topographical/spatial word - disorientation as it applies to physical disorientation/being lost/having no direction.

Our local theory-hack
brought disorientation from the topographical sphere to the linguistic and suggested that disorientation could also be related to the issues of misaligned language and referentiality in Celan. This, he suggested, is clearly related to the madness (for what is madness if not a state of false or confused referentiality), which was so interesting to Celan (see references to Hölderlin, for example). The Prof, in her infinite wisdom, brought us back to the imagery (natural/spatial) of madness - Umnachtung, Finsternis, (Celan neologism Verfinstrung), Dunkel (also causing a lack of orientation - absolute darkness making orientation impossible).

This all refers, said our famous progeny, to the paradoxicality of the testimonial itself. All these issues are contiguous (spatial) to the issue of the Holocaust. Prof asks whether we can speak about metaphor in Celan at all or if it isn't all an issue of metonymy (I think she was hängengeblieben at referentiality).

Thinking about words that pop up repeatedly in Celan (also with spatiality in mind) Licht came up, which led us to Lichtsinn, which points up the importance of Sinn, not in the sense of sense, but in the sense of direction.

All of this tangled network of words and meanings and topoi in Celan underlines the fact that learning Celan's language is not like learning a straight code (where x = 7 and y = 4). Instead one must become a spider in some sense (not spinning meaning from seeming-nothing), negotiating (navigating) a network of seemingly random connections, some related morphologically, some semantically, some related purely by context or proximity (spatial).

[Insert reference to Roland writing wordlists in Possession]

What all this complex network of reference(s) does is it creates a sense of intimacy. What Celan does is he internalizes the external sphere. Think of the German Erinnerung (n. memory), erinnern (v. to remember), sich erinnern an (v. to remind oneself, to remember), ER-INNERN. To internalize.

The Prof interjects that the Romantics were particularly interested in this kind of interconnectivity - the idea that everything is connected and the interactions between interconnected elements propel the thinking/feeling human ever upward toward a greater awareness. But Celan reminds us that there is also the danger of becoming ensnared (as in a net) and going down/under.

Interconnectivity is also a modern/post-modern/post-post-modern interest, though. Think about Six Degrees of Separation, (and this, and this, and this), visual representations of friendship webs, Venn Diagrams, the idea of the internet - LINKS, networking (in business and computers as well as social lives/hives), webs drawn to show the progression of theories through time, persistent fascination with evolution - the idea that everything proceeds (vertically) more or less directly from something else, but that everything is also (horizontally) connected with other contemporary issues, objects, ideas, people.

Wordlist: morphology, teliology, semantics, referentiality, organicism, interconnectivity, anabolic, Lichtsinn, disorientation, Erinnerung, traditional, topography

Monday, April 28, 2008

Library Hitlist

To get from the library, besides the multitude of books I already requested from the depository:


  • PN6071.W3 W35 2000x - The Walker's Literary Companion
  • PR6019.O9 U624 1996 - Bely, Joyce, and Döblin : peripatetics in the city novel
  • WID-LC AM7 .M39 2007 - Museums of the Mind: German Modernity and the Dynamics of Collecting
  • PT139 .D483 2003x - Deutsche Landschaften
  • GN495.6 .B65 1998 - Borders, Exiles, Diasporas
  • HU90.12583 Harvard Depository - Landscape Through Literature: Caspar David Friedrich and three German Romantic Writers
  • PT749.N36 L3 - Landschaft und Raum in der Erzählkunst
  • 46533.40.15 - Landschaftserlebnis und Landschaftsbild; Studien zur deutschen Dichtung des 18. Jahrhunderts und der Romantik.
Loeb Design
  • Special Collections Thesis SB470.55.G4 L44 2004 - The German "Mittelweg": Garden theory and philosophy in the time of Kant
  • Microforms - Film A 440 no. 802, reel 150. - Die Gärtnerey, so wohl in ihrer Theorie oder Betrachtung als Praxi oder Übung

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Academic Pet Peeves

  • People who talk too much about Dramentheorie
  • Medievalists
  • People who use the word Teleologie/teleologisch too often
  • Department Politics

Friday, April 4, 2008

In the Presence...

It’s unsettling to be in the presence of someone who is perceived as a rockstar in our field. Every time Professor K. has a question everyone holds their breath, trying to hear what he has to say and the speaker who is attempting to answer his question tries to make a joke, in order to diffuse the tension that arises from that strange little moment. Often a little mild defensiveness creeps in while addressing his question. Everyone is deferring to him.

And yet he seems down to earth, really humble. I wonder if he wanders around with the same kind of self-doubt that the rest of us have?