Inflected Language: Toward a Hermeneutics of Nearness

Heidegger, Levinas, Stevens, Celan

By Krzysztof Ziarek

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791420607, 239 pages, October 1994
Hardcover : 9780791420591, 239 pages, October 1994

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Table of contents



Introduction: Inflecting Difference

1. Rethinking the Parameters of the Heideggerian Hermeneutics: Heidegger on Poetry and Thinking


Dichten-Denken: Beyond a Philosophy of Poetry
Heidegger's Language: From Difference to the Infold


2. Refiguring Otherness: A Heideggerian Bypass of Ethics?


Aside from Metaphysics: Heidegger on Nearness
Beyond Ontology and Ethics: The Two Side of Gelassenheit


3. Semantics of Proximity: Levinas on Non-Indifferenece


The Abrahamic Departure from Totality
The Non-Indifferent Face
Semantics of Proximity
The Trace


4. The Other Notation: Stevens and the Supreme Fiction of Poetry


Poet on the Dump: Steven's Reckoning with the Romantic Legacy
Notes toward Otherness: A Supreme Fiction?
Perhaps Other: Stevensian Notes on Difference


5. Chiasmus of Otherness: Reading Celan and his Interpreters


The Unwritten Text and the Name of the Other
"Two Kinds of Strangeness": Celan on the Possibility of Signifying the Ethical in Poetry


6. Celan's Poetic Meridians

Coda: Semiosis of Listening or an Other Meeting between Heidegger and Celan



Proposes to rethink the ontological and ethical dimensions of language by rereading Heidegger’s work and by engaging Levinas’ ethics and contemporary poetics.


In the aftermath of poststructuralist debates, Inflected Language proposes to rethink the ontological and ethical dimensions of language by rereading Heidegger's work, more specifically his reflection on poetry, and by engaging Levinas' ethics and contemporary poetics. Building on the readings of Heidegger, Levinas, Stevens, and Celan, the author contends that, against common misinterpretations, their approach to language forces us to reexamine the very basis of relations to alterity, whether that of the world, things, or people.

According to the new view of language offered in these works, thought's job is not, first and foremost, cognition in the sense of understanding, calculations, and definition, but in securing alterity against cognitive assimilation instead. In this context, Inflected Language reshapes the current philosophico-literary debate about language by showing how the apparently neutral differential play of signification is already invested with ethical and worldly signification. In order to avoid obliterating this elusive signification in theorizing language, Ziarek proposes following a new mode of reading—a post-Heideggerian "hermeneutics of nearness," which foregrounds the poetic element in language and its ways of figuring the other.

Krzysztof Ziarek is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.


"The book is a valuable addition both to the discussion of ethics in continental philosophy and to the employment of continental philosophy for the reading of poetry. " — Robert Bernsaconi