Language Mysticism: The Negative Way of Language in Eliot, Beckett, and Celan

Overview

Language Mysticism explores the place granted to language within metaphysical and theological hierarchies traditional to Western culture. Within these hierarchies, language represents embodiment, division, and historical differentiation; whereas silence points to an eternal unity beyond linguistic form and limitation. But this reflects a deeply embedded ambivalence in the Western tradition toward material and temporal conditions in general. The author uses the writings of T. S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and Paul ...
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Overview

Language Mysticism explores the place granted to language within metaphysical and theological hierarchies traditional to Western culture. Within these hierarchies, language represents embodiment, division, and historical differentiation; whereas silence points to an eternal unity beyond linguistic form and limitation. But this reflects a deeply embedded ambivalence in the Western tradition toward material and temporal conditions in general. The author uses the writings of T. S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and Paul Celan to show how far-reaching and immediate this history of ambivalence remains in its influence and consequences. In each of these writers, theological traditions inform and situate linguistic imagery and practices, albeit in quite different ways. The author argues that the stances toward language of these three writers register values not only fundamental to their work but general to our culture. Language is the sign of body, of history, of difference; and a negative attitude toward language therefore implies a displacement of value away from concrete, historical condition. The approach to language of Eliot, Beckett, and Celan therefore inscribes their struggle to define and locate the values that endow our lives with meaning, and the possibility of translating these values into historical reality.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804723879
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1995
  • Pages: 340

Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Note on Translations
1 Introduction: Beyond Inexpressibility 1
2 Linguistic Asceticism in "Four Quartets" 10
3 Samuel Beckett's Figural Evasions 51
4 The Negative Way Negated: Samuel Beckett, Counter-Mystic 90
5 Broken Wor(l)ds: Aesthetics and History in Paul Celan 135
6 The Letters of Creation: Paul Celan and the Kabbalah 199
7 Conclusion: Language Values 264
Notes 275
Works Cited 297
Index 313
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