By David Michael Kleinberg-Levin
Probing examine of the way 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 deals a philosophical meditation at the strength of language in literature. David Kleinberg-Levin attracts at the serious 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 indicates how Döblin and Sebald—writers with extensively assorted types operating in several old moments—have in universal a fight opposed to forces of negativity and an goal to lead to 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 and get well and produce this utopian promise of happiness for all times in a time of mourning.
“Redeeming Words is a chic, hugely realized, and incisive exploration of the way language—and hence the best literature of our time—both registers the event of the lack of utopia and affirms wish by means of making the loss extra transparent. It takes as its subject the main profound reflections at the function of phrases in a time of abandonment and disenchantment. Kleinberg-Levin argues not just that phrases converse this feeling of loss yet represent it by means of failing to accomplish overall mastery and transparency and self-consciously thematizing the corruption and in addition affirmative energy of phrases. on the inner most point, this research analyzes phrases and what the very lifestyles of phrases can confer to participants and communities.” — Peter Fritzsche, writer of The Turbulent international of Franz Göll: a standard Berliner Writes the 20 th Century
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Extra info for Redeeming Words: Language and the Promise of Happiness in the Stories of Döblin and Sebald (Suny Series, Intersections: Philosophy & Critical Theory)
14 even if Döblin's novel is a piece of montage, it isn't a piece belonging to surrealism; nor can its relevant personality, Franz Biberkopf, be credited with the heroic, if futile gestures of freedom which surrealism prizes. despite the fact that, the radical does “expose” Biberkopf to a antagonistic international of reification that throws him again on himself and divulges itself dialectically, throughout the “blows” that time and again defeat his gestures of subjective freedom, in all its goal unfreedom. in addition, as I shall argue, the language of the unconventional does express Biberkopf in a fashion that successfully makes us helpless witnesses to the “reversion of summary freedom to the supremacy of items and therefore to mere nature. ” As Döblin's “prologue” to the fourth bankruptcy says, Biberkopf's gestures are futile; rather than manifesting his freedom, they simply imprison him extra securely within the destiny that language is already getting ready for him: the following you'll see our guy boozing, virtually giving himself up for misplaced. however it wasn't so undesirable in spite of everything [noch nicht so hart]. Franz Biberkopf is being spared for a tougher fall [für schlimmere Dinge aufbewahrt]. [BA 121/92] he's pressured, the following, not just via what's stated but additionally, in an uncanny method, via the very rhyming of the language. And it really is during this bankruptcy that Biberkopf's strolling is defined, as we famous prior, with word-iterations assigning it a mechanical rhythm: “Right foot, left foot. …” within the “prologue” to the 5th bankruptcy, Döblin units in movement a contradiction: the exact same phrases that ascribe a definite “freedom” to Biberkopf instantly take it clear of him with their rhythm and their rhyming, enacting the causality of destiny: a short restoration, our guy stands back the place he stood earlier than, he has no longer understood whatever nor realized something extra. Now the 1st heavy blow falls on him. he's dragged right into a legal case, it truly is opposed to his will, he defends himself, however the factor he needs to face. Fiercely and bravely, with hand and foot, he attempts to win the race, yet it really is no need, he is crushed, the problem he needs to face. [Er wehrt sich tapfer und wild mit Händen und Füßen, aber es hilft nichts, es geht über ihn, er muß müssen. ] [BA 163/128] The language we learn right here enacts and accomplishes precisely what it describes or predicts. In a perceptive learn of Döblin's novel, Gabriele Sander summarizes after which reviews at the author's characterization of Biberkopf as “anständig” and “gutwillig,” “von Natur aus gut”: The protagonist is forged as a guy who's good-natured and naïve, but in addition compulsive and vulnerable to excesses of violence and alcohol, a guy who, due to his psychic in addition to his political and ideological instability, can't have the capacity to detect his reliable intentions and identify a middle-class life. He now reports the city fact from which he has been bring to a halt for 4 years as an alarming pandemonium, as a chaotic, adversarial position, which he believes he needs to counter with the angle of a warring conqueror. He refuses the help provided from numerous facets, believing basically in his personal energy.