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Humanities 2017, 6(4), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040100

The Black Star: Lived Paradoxes in the Poetry of Paul Celan

Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 5290002, Israel
Received: 12 October 2017 / Revised: 10 December 2017 / Accepted: 12 December 2017 / Published: 15 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Holocaust in Literature and Film)
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Abstract

Celan’s poetry is deemed universal and experimental, and its main characteristic is to “explore possibilities of sense-making.” His poetry is also acknowledged to be the apex of Jewish post-Holocaust poetry, contending with existentialist questions such as the existence God in the Holocaust and the possibility of restoring Jewish identity. In this paper I will examine how Celan uses paradoxes in his poetry to create atheistic and skeptical expressions. The technique of paradox expresses the concurrent existence of two contradictory possibilities; the article will present three types of paradox typical of Celan’s poetry: (1) the affirmation and denial of the existence of God; (2) the mention of rituals from Jewish tradition, while voiding them of their conventional meaning; (3) the use of German, specifically, for the reconstitution of Jewish identity. My main argument is that paradox in Celan’s work creates a unique voice of atheism and skepticism, since it preserves the ideas that it rejects as a source for fashioning meaning. In order to explore how Celan constructs paradox, I will use Wittgenstein’s resolutions of the paradoxes that emerge from the use of language, and I will show how they illuminate Celan’s use of this technique. The article will examine three Wittgensteinian methods of resolving the paradoxes that Celan employs in his oeuvre: highlighting, containing, and dissolving. View Full-Text
Keywords: Celan; Wittgenstein; paradox; atheism; skepticism Celan; Wittgenstein; paradox; atheism; skepticism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Lemberger, D. The Black Star: Lived Paradoxes in the Poetry of Paul Celan. Humanities 2017, 6, 100.

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