Spring 2015 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Bambach, Charles
Discipline and Number
HUHI 7332 Section 001
T Time 4:00 PM - 6:45 PM
Course Title
Philosophy and Poetry

Description of Course:

In this graduate seminar we will attempt a conversation between two major figures in European philosophy & poetry--Jacques Derrida and Paul Celan. The starting point for our inquiry will be Plato's question about the conflict within the polis about the proper role of "representation" as a model of truth. How can poetry properly come to an engagement with "truth", esp. a truth as contorted and contradictory as Jewish experience in 20th-cent. Europe? Both Derrida and Celan were Jews in exile from their homeland who resettled in Paris as a way of situating themselves in the discourse about "modernity" in the 1940s-1950s. I want to engage their work against the larger question-frame of the "Athens" and "Jerusalem" dialogue/debate that pervades Western thought as a way of reprising the most difficult ethical questions about "justice" in Germany both during and after WW II.

We will read each work closely, sometimes spending an entire seminar session on a single poem, reading line-by-line in an effort to open up that which is closed and to close off that which appears all too open. Since both Derrida and Celan owe an important debt to Heidegger, I will try to open our seminar with a discussion of "Heidegger's Silence" concerning the Holocaust and the meaning of his work for a German-Jewish dialogue about interpretation/confrontation ("Auseinandersetzung"). As Blanchot puts it, Heidegger's failure to address his participation in the metaphysical trauma of NS extermination constitutes nothing less than a "wound to thought"---it is with this "wound" that we shall begin.

Required Texts:

Derrida, Sovereignties in Question (Fordham)ISBN:0-8232-2438-4
Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, TR. John Felstiner (W. W.
Norton) ISBN 0-393-32224-6
Poems of Paul Celan TR M.Hamburger (Persea Books) 0-89255-276-x
Paul Celan Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry: A Bilingual Edition ISBN-13: 978-0374125981 (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux), ed. Pierre Joris

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

One in-class Protokoll (a 1-2 page report on the week's reading), one paper proposal due in week 10, and one seminar essay of 12-15 pp. length that engages one of the themes/texts of our semester's readings.

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