Abstract

Postmodern writers and artists of all sorts have evolved radical new poetics based preeminently on the secret resources of silence. Poets have focused particularly on silences become audible in the tearing of language and the rending of sense. To a significant degree, this is a rediscovery of the oftentimes repressed resources in Western tradition of apophatic discourse, discourse on what cannot be said. Jewish writers have been particularly important in this revival, partly because the biblical interdiction on representations of the divine, denounced as idolatrous ("graven images"), gave Jewish tradition a peculiar attunement to the limits of representation and a special sensibility for the Unrepresentable. Edmond Jabès and Paul Celan, emerging almost contemporaneously out of widely divergent cultural backgrounds in Egypt and Romania respectively, nevertheless share these coordinates in common. Writing as post-Holocaust Jews, each in a different way lends language to silence in order to give voice to the unspeakable. An attempt is made, furthermore, to distinguish between two different traditions of apophatic thinking, one based on the ineffability of being or existence and the other on the ineffability of language itself. These strands are traced back to Neoplatonism and the Bible and are aligned primarily with Celan and Jabès respectively.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 621-638
Launched on MUSE
2006-02-06
Open Access
No
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