Tuesday, April 29, 2008

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


DLR said...

This sounds like something I would be interested in, if I understood exactly what all the words mean when you put them together.

It is a post-modern cut-up reference-based age though (PULPable?), in which no idea/word/place stands alone without references to other things moving onto its territory...

And in terms of technology things, we already talk colloquially in the language of wires, networks, signals and virtual social lives. Where religion once explained the interaction and reference of the world, now it's Gooooooogle and Wookiepedia.

Soon the machines will take over and only Arnie can save us.

wiebke said...

This reminded me (hehe, erinnerte mich) that I wanted to send you the link to Leo Marx: The Machine in the Garden. It's been forever that I have read this (first semester), and it is distinctly about America, but maybe it will relate to what you talked about in the Schimmelreiter etc. and the nature/technology connection in the 19th century.

wiebke said...

Oh, and here IS the link: http://books.google.de/books?id=aJ3SfJyseSoC&dq=leo+marx+machine+garden&pg=PP1&ots=JDbsdTOnvA&sig=TBVib4kRj_78gVnGhNqKM1XMeXg&hl=de&prev=http://www.google.de/search?hl=de&q=leo+marx+machine+garden&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail#PPP7,M1