Redeeming Words: Language and the Promise of Happiness in the Stories of Döblin and Sebald (Suny Series, Intersections: Philosophy & Critical Theory)

By David Michael Kleinberg-Levin

Probing examine of ways literature can redeem the revelatory, redemptive powers of language.

In this probing examine Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz and the tales of W. G. Sebald, Redeeming Words bargains a philosophical meditation at the energy of language in literature. David Kleinberg-Levin attracts at the severe thought of Benjamin and Adorno; the idealism and romanticism of Kant, Hegel, Hölderlin, Novalis, and Schelling; and the 19th- and twentieth-century considered Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida. He exhibits how Döblin and Sebald—writers with notably diversified kinds operating in numerous ancient moments—have in universal a fight opposed to forces of negativity and an objective to result in in reaction a undeniable redemption of language. Kleinberg-Levin considers the fast paced, staccato, and hard-cut sentences of Döblin and the ghostly, languorous, and depression prose fiction of Sebald to articulate how either writers use language in an try to recuperate and bring this utopian promise of happiness for all times in a time of mourning.

“Redeeming Words is a chic, hugely realized, and incisive exploration of ways language—and therefore the best literature of our time—both registers the adventure of the lack of utopia and affirms desire by way of making the loss extra transparent. It takes as its subject the main profound reflections at the position of phrases in a time of abandonment and disenchantment. Kleinberg-Levin argues not just that phrases speak this feeling of loss yet represent it by means of failing to accomplish overall mastery and transparency and self-consciously thematizing the corruption and likewise affirmative energy of phrases. on the inner most point, this learn analyzes phrases and what the very lifestyles of phrases can confer to contributors and communities.” — Peter Fritzsche, writer of The Turbulent international of Franz Göll: a normal Berliner Writes the 20 th Century

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Even though, along with being basically aesthetic semblance, even this reconciliation, constrained because it is to poetry, can by no means be entire, ultimate, or completely stabilized. we're reminded that the happiness language offers is still elusive, by no means fullyyt published from the wondering of its danger. hence a definite depression unavoidably impacts even the main surely joyous poetry, as we discover ourselves forced to recognize our distance from the prospective in a without end compromised happiness—a misplaced current.

In Döblin's prefatory headings, previous all of the 9 chapters, language demonstrates in an uncanny means this minatory strength, this implacable strength of destiny. those headings could seem first and foremost to be in simple terms descriptive, telling us in abbreviated shape what will ensue within the part we're at the verge of interpreting. yet in an odd and disconcerting approach, the phrases hold the causal strength of destiny. it truly is as though, exceeding even the facility of prediction or prophecy, they're really going to make what they describe happen.

In 1857, Marie-Henri Beyle, Stendahl as he's quite often recognized, wrote in his essay On attractiveness that “beauty is simply the promise of happiness. ” “La beauté,” he declared, “n'est que l. a. promesse de bonheur. ” A century later, Theodor Adorno reformulated in a adverse dialectic the skepticism inherent in that dictum, making artwork the topic and arguing, for that reason, that paintings is “the ever damaged promise of happiness,” simply because its resistance to the ethical ugliness of triumphing truth can occur in basic terms within the realm of aesthetic semblance.

Or maybe this touch has already been irretrievably misplaced. finally, the language during this tale of Paradise, gratifying the dream of harmony and wholeness, together with the entire, ultimate, reliable, and conflict-free reconciliation and cohesion of sensuous feel and intelligible experience, is not anything yet mythic myth. And but, wasting touch with the promise of happiness, a promise supposedly nonetheless guarded—and nonetheless in part concealed—in the entire languages of the realm, will be an immeasurable loss. it may even deny us the key of our survival.

For in happiness, all that's earthly seeks its downfall, and merely in success is its downfall destined [bestimmt] to discover it. against this, the rapid Messianic depth of the center, of the internal guy in isolation, passes via misfortune, in ache. To the religious restitutio in integrum, which introduces immortality, there corresponds a cosmopolitan restitution that ends up in the eternity of downfall, and the rhythm of this without end temporary worldly life, brief in its totality, […] the rhythm of Messianic nature, is happiness.

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