Between Celan and Heidegger
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Probing reassessment of the relation between Celan's poetry and Heidegger's thought.
The relevance of Martin Heidegger’s thinking to Paul Celan’s poetry is well known. Between Celan and Heidegger proposes that, while the relation between them is undeniable, it is also marked by irreducible discord. Pablo Oyarzun begins with a deconstruction of Celan’s Todtnauberg, written after the poet visited Heidegger in his Schwarzwald cabin. The poem stands as a milestone, not only in the complex relationship between the two men but also in the state of poetry and philosophy in late modernity, in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Discussion then turns to The Meridian, Celan’s acceptance speech for the prestigious Büchner Prize for German language literature. Other issues are insistently addressed—place, art, language, pain, existence, and the Heideggerian notion of dialogue—as Oyarzun revisits several essential poems from Celan’s oeuvre. A rare translation of Oyarzun’s work into English, Between Celan and Heidegger affirms the uniqueness of Celan’s poetry in confrontation both with Heidegger’s discourse on Dichtung (a poetic saying centered in the idea of gathering) and with Western philosophical notions of art, technē, mimesis, poiesis, language, and thinking more broadly.
Pablo Oyarzun is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chile. He is the author of several books, including Literature and Skepticism, also published by SUNY Press. D. J. S. Cross teaches comparative literature at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.
“Celan’s poetry has certainly attracted considerable attention from literary critics, philologists, and poetologists, but remarkable in his case is the consistent attention his work has drawn from philosophers and philosophically sophisticated literary critics. With this, the question arises: what is it in Celan’s writings that challenges philosophical thought? Among its many accomplishments, Oyarzun’s study not only engages the philosophers’ accounts of the poetry in question . . . but also enquires into what motivates this philosophical interest in the first place. In short, it is an inquiry into the stakes of the philosophical encounter with poetry.” — from the Foreword by Rodolphe Gasché