An Analysis Of Paul Celan

2066 words - 9 pages

Paradox, in individual assertions and the structure as a whole, pervades the descriptions of mourning in Paul Celan's poem "In Praise of Distance." For Celan, mourning reveals not only a personal dilemma but also a metaphysical crisis in the relationship between an "I" and a "you." Through paradox, Celan describes a space of mourning that alters the significance of violence and the death of another and that calls into question the logic of identity whose basic notion posits personal identity as autonomous, radically individuated subjectivity.The first stanza reveals the poem's paradoxical structure and this structure's relationship with the two conceptions of identity ...view middle of the document...

" I will examine the aspects of this subjectivity below, but here I note that the idea of subjectivity in "the wellspring of your eyes" seeks to take a different presupposition concerning identity, one that does not begin with the presupposition of separation.However, this other idea of subjectivity is unable to free itself completely from the logic of isolated subjectivity. That logic of identity is the ever-present background against which the paradoxes of the poem take their sense. Thus, Celan employs a paradoxical structure to open a minimal space of critique within that logic. The structure of "In Praise of Distance" is paradoxical in that the poem is a description of the teary, mournful gaze of another. As a description of "the wellspring of your eyes," the poem seeks to do what is impossible within the logic of identity, which posits identity to be isolated and impenetrable. A fundamental bond between subjectivities is necessarily presupposed for the possibility of Celan's description. Celan offers mourning, the "wellspring of your eyes," as the site of reversal and paradox that reveals this fundamental bond between people. The relation between this paradoxical structure and the two conceptions of identity can be witnessed in the relation between the "wellspring" and the "sea." With the logic of identity as represented by the "sea," the basic notion is the individuation of subjectivity. However, by naming the capacity for mourning a "wellspring," Celan asserts that the origin or fountainhead of subjectivity is not isolation and individuation but a fundamental bond where there can only be an "I" in relation to a "you." Within the paradoxical structure launched in the first stanza, the following stanzas offer a series of paradoxical assertions that describe aspects of the different idea of subjectivity. These paradoxical assertions must be read for their dual significance in the logic of isolated subjectivity and in Celan's straining of this logic in paradox. In the second stanza, Celan uses absolute terms and hyperbole to characterize subjectivity as conceived in the space of mourning.Blacker in black, I am more naked.Unfaithful I am true.I am you when I am I (5-7).Against the logic of identity, where naked, true, unfaithful, I, and you are absolute or exclusive of their opposites, Celan uses the terms to assert that the basis of subjectivity is not its exclusivity, but a seemingly impossible originary bond with it counterpart. For the logic of identity, being more than naked is not achievable; there, being naked is subjectivity stripped of all relations and social qualifications, the pure self. But in the "wellspring of your eyes," subjectivity is more than naked, more than a pure self in isolation, in that, here, nakedness is a fundamental exposure to and contact with the gaze of another, a "you." Furthermore, this being "more naked" takes place within the...

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