Paul Celan : a rhetoric of silence
The thesis focusses on the suspension of Celan's poetry between speech and silence, in particular on the way in which this suspension functions and on the interrelations between its thematic, formal, metaphorical, tonal and structural manifestations. As is emphasized in a fusion like "das erschwiegene Wort" in the early programmatic poem "Argumentum e silentio, " silence in Celan is not opposed to, but is inherent in, poetic speech. The fundamental mediality of his poetry engenders numerous devices of suspension, which, according to the rhetorical modes in which they silence reference, may be divided into three distinct but not mutually exclusive categories: unfinality, disjunction and displacement. The first category is defined by the avoidance of closure. Whatever the technique employed, be it the elision of a final full stop or an explicit self-revocation, this type of poem not only negates its own finality, but consists of this very invalidation. The speech of the poem is the silencing of speech. This primal suspension infuses Celan's work with a host of correlative disjunctions. Metaphors are often radically suspended between mutually exclusive extremes of connotation, mutually exclusive denotations sometimes starkly juxtaposed. The opposing terms at once define and negate each other: the essence lies in the interstice they delimit. The third category investigated is that of displacement, which, exemplified by the use of irony and anagrams, involves suspension by a deviation from, rather than a negation of, literal meaning: an element of deflection and play is to the fore. All three categories share the basic mechanism of exploiting an interstice between reference and rhetoric. And, the thesis ventures finally to suggest, it is this interstice, reflected thematically in many metaphors of mediality and constituted by a fusion, a synchronization, of multiple grids of signification, that structures the poem; it is silence that speaks.