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A Weak Messianic Power: Figures of a Time to Come in Benjamin, Derrida, and Celan

A Weak Messianic Power: Figures of a Time to Come in Benjamin, Derrida, and Celan

Michael G. Levine
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    A Weak Messianic Power: Figures of a Time to Come in Benjamin, Derrida, and Celan
    Book Description:

    In his famous theses on the philosophy of history, Benjamin writes: "We have been endowed with a weak messianic power to which the past has a claim." This claim addresses us not just from the past but from what will have belonged to it only as a missed possibility and unrealized potential. For Benajmin, as for Celan and Derrida, what has never been actualized remains with us, not as a lingering echo but as a secretly insistent appeal. Because such appeals do not pass through normal channels of communication, they require a special attunement, perhaps even a mode of unconscious receptivity. Levine examines the ways in which this attunement is cultivated in Benjamin's philosophical, autobiographical, and photohistorical writings; Celan's poetry and poetological addresses; and Derrida's writings on Celan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5514-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. ONE A Time to Come: Hunchbacked Theology, Post-Freudian Psychoanalysis, and Historical Materialism
    (pp. 1-13)

    There is often in writing a secret place around which thoughts—around which what is less than, not yet, and perhaps never to be thought—may gather. Walter Benjamin alludes to such a place in an April 1940 letter to his friend and confidante Gretel Adorno. Referring to the thoughts that would secretly coalesce around the writing of his now-famous theses on the concept of history, he notes, “The war, and the constellation that brought it about, led me to set down some thoughts of which I can say that I kept them to myself—kept them indeed from myself—...

  6. TWO The Day the Sun Stood Still: Benjamin’s Theses, Celan’s Realignments, Trauma, and the Eichmann Trial
    (pp. 14-36)

    Even the most sensitive and persuasive readings of Benjamin’s much-discussed last, unfinished text, his untitled theses on the philosophy of history, fail to focus sufficiently on a number of its key stylistic traits and its status within the body of his work as yet another in a series of meditations on the genre of “the last will and testament.”¹ Perhaps the most definitive reading of Benjamin’s theses to date, Werner Hamacher’s essay “‘Now’: Benjamin on Historical Time,” focuses on the second thesis as the key to its understanding of time and the ways in which Benjamin brings together theological and...

  7. THREE Pendant: Celan, Büchner, and the Terrible Voice of the Meridian
    (pp. 37-62)

    In his 1960Meridianaddress, delivered on the occasion of receiving the Büchner Prize for Literature, the poet Paul Celan pinpoints a central organizing moment in the work of the nineteenth-century writer and dramatist in whose name the award was given. While winners of the Büchner prize are generally expected to reflect in their acceptance speeches on their relations to the writer, Celan’s address goes well beyond the level of artistic reflection, turning repeatedly about a pivotal moment in Büchner’s work, a moment with which it makes contact and on which it in many ways remains stuck. That moment, as...

  8. FOUR On the Stroke of Circumcision I: Derrida, Celan, and the Covenant of the Word
    (pp. 63-79)

    Derrida’s “Shibboleth: For Paul Celan” is the revised text of a lecture he delivered in Seattle on October 14, 1984. Divided into seven sections marked by roman numerals, it begins: “Only one time [Une seule fois]: circumcision takes place only once [n’a lieu qu’une fois].”¹ Broaching the topic of circumcision and with it the related questions of its place and taking place in the very first line of the text, Derrida will nevertheless wait until the seventh section to address the “circumcision of the word” invoked in Celan’s 1963 poem from the collectionThe No-one’s Rose(Die Niemandsrose), “To One...

  9. FIVE On the Stroke of Circumcision II: Celan, Kafka, and the Wound in the Name
    (pp. 80-96)

    The name “Rabbi Löw” is associated in Jewish tradition with a creative practice based on a certain performance of the divine Name. Invoking this practice, Celan’s poem no doubt draws attention to its own creation. Yet if “To One Who Stood Before The Door” is a poem about poetry, about its own singular performance, it is poetry no longer viewed aspoesis—that is, as a making or fashioning. Indeed, Celan conjures the mystical tradition of golemic creation that is associated with the name Rabbi Löw only to alter it from within, basing his own practice no longer on the...

  10. SIX Poetry’s Demands and Abrahamic Sacrifice: Celan’s Poems for Eric
    (pp. 97-124)

    In the spring and summer of 1968 Paul Celan addressed a number of poems to his son Eric, the second of his sons and the only one still alive. His first, François, had died shortly after birth in October 1953 and, as noted in Chapter 4, his passing is commemorated in the poem “Grabschrift für François” (“Epitaph for François”), which was published in the 1955 collectionVon Schwelle zu Schwelle(From Threshold to Threshold). Celan and his wife, the artist Gisèle Celan-Lestrange, were deeply marked by the loss of their first child. We know from their correspondence that the child’s...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 125-164)
    (pp. 165-172)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 173-178)