Language and the Promise of Happiness in the Stories of Döblin and Sebald
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: State University of New York Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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I am grateful to the estate of Josef Herman and the Flowers Gallery of london and New York for kind permission to use an image of Herman’s “Figure on Road,” a painting the allegorical sense of which seems singularly Many are the friends who, in one way or another, in the course of a number of years, have contributed to the thinking and writing of this ...
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I am tempted to say that the right expression in language for the miracle of the existence of the world, though it is not any proposition in lan-The imperfect is our paradise. / Note that, in this bitterness, delight, / Since the imperfect is so hot in us, / lies in flawed words and stubborn In Parages, Jacques Derrida explains why he likes the figure of a distant ...
Part IAlfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz
Fate and character are commonly regarded as causally connected, char-acter being the cause of fate. [. . .] If a concept of fate is to be attained, it must be clearly distinguished from that of character, which in turn cannot be achieved until the latter has been more exactly defined. On the basis of this definition, the two concepts will become wholly ...
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Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin’s novel relating the story of Franz Bib-erkopf, is a philosophically thought-provoking narrative about character and fate.1 It was published in 1929 in Berlin as the Weimar Republic was crumbling. This was a time of great social, political and economic turmoil, agitation and unrest, and it was during this time that National Social-...
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In the course of thinking about the phenomenon of criminality within contemporary bourgeois society—a subject that his readings of Karl Kraus by natural law the way its ideology used to assert that it did. It “Natural law,” which Adorno justifiably rejects, has played a major role not only in jurisprudence, but also in natural history. Döblin does not tell ...
3Döblin’s Conception of the Modern Novel
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In “The Position of the Narrator in the Contemporary Novel,” Theodor istic heritage and tell how things really are, it must abandon a realism that only serves the façade in its [ideological] work of What is reflected in the form of narrative montage—the form that Döblin employs in Berlin Alexanderplatz to disrupt or suspend nineteenth-century ...
4The Language of Fate
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Words bear the stamp of the metaphysics that imposed itself through, precisely, this language. [. . .] Deconstructive writing always attacks the Banished from rational thought, mimetic forms of behaviour exact a My argument here, briefly stated, is that, in Döblin’s narrative, the poten-tiality of authentic human speech and the potentiality of authentic human ...
5Language as the Causality of Freedom
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In “One-Way Street,” Benjamin declares, that “These are days when no one should rely unduly on his ‘competence.’ Strength lies in improvisa-tion. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.”1 My conjecture is that, when he wrote that, he had some of Döblin’s early left-leaning, politi-cally charged writings very much in mind: first of all, the fable conveying ...
6Paradise in Words
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The Messiah will be the last—and first—philosopher of language.Biberkopf seeks happiness; he seeks it in a decent, “anständig” life, renounc-ing his old ways—violence, brutality, crime. For him, the promise of hap-piness is not the promise of a world of universal justice, peace, and human dignity, but simply the promise of material satisfactions, the rewards he ...
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How little moral the world would look without this forgetfulness! A poet might say that God had placed forgetfulness as door-keeper in the [T]he true measure of life is memory [Erinnerung]. Retrospectively, it Originally, ‘memory’ means as much as devotion [An-dacht]: a constant concentrated abiding with something [das unablässige, gesammelte Blei-...
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After reading Walter Benjamin’s essay on the historian Eduard Fuchs, Max Horkheimer wrote to his friend concerning the question of the incomplete-ness of history, arguing that our relationship to the past must be treated dialectically if the victims of injustice are not to suffer even more injustice. Past injustices cannot, he said, be undone: The slain are really dead. In ...
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In “Aesthetica in Nuce: A Rhapsody in Cabbalistic Prose” (1762), J. G. Hamann asks: “But how are we to raise the defunct language of Nature from the dead?” The evocations of nature in Sebald’s stories seem as if written in meditation on this still troubling questions.1 Natural history is, in fact, at the very heart of all Sebald’s writings, provoking questions about how ...
3Of Humans and Other Animals
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As we know, in his Letters to the Romans (VIII, 19–22), St. Paul observes that, although God’s world was made subject to corruption and decay, the whole of creation is groaning together, longing for redemption, longing for the words, the language, that could end its history of suffering. Schelling’s is that of nostalgia, longing for the impossible ideal [Sehnsucht], ...
4As Time Goes By
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More than anything else, Sebald’s stories are works of memory—memory in all its guises and disguises. Memory, often, as belated witness. So I think we need, now, to reflect in a more concentrated way on the figures of memory and on the particular words and phrases that Sebald uses to register engage-In Sebald’s stories, it seems that, as time goes by, memory-work fre-...
5Stoicism, Skepticism, and theUnhappy Consciousness
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In this chapter, my argument, the principal elements of which we have already encountered, is that each of the three configurations of conscious-ness named here, the historically unfolding spirit of which is recapitulated in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, can be discerned in Sebald’s writings, although there is certainly no Hegelian dialectic of progress from lower, ...
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In §59 of the Critique of Judgement, “On Beauty as the Symbol of Moral-ity,” Kant attempts to show how aesthetic experience is connected to the moral enlightenment and moral task of humanity.1 He argues there that the connection between the experience of beauty and the experience of the moral law is a symbolic one, but that, although only symbolic, it nev-...
7On a Journey through Disenchantment
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For Sebald as for Benjamin, “redemption,” or the promise of happiness, is only an “Idea”; nevertheless, it can be revealed—and demands to be revealed—in the phenomenon, in materiality, the theatre of the empiri-cal, register of history. But of course it is precisely in this theatre that his writings must struggle to say what the historical conditions inevitably ...
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In beginning my Prologue, I quoted, as a provocation for our thought, a question that Adorno formulates in his Minima Moralia: “What would happiness be that was not measured by the immeasurable grief at what is?”1 Ever since I first read it, this question has haunted me, causing many sleepless nights. Still echoing and left unsettled, the question needs to be ...
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Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory