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Title: The ethics of poetic force : Jacques Derrida, Hélène Cixous, Paul Celan
Author: Sant, Janice
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 0502
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis makes the claim that there is an important correlation between the poetic and the ethical in the work of Jacques Derrida, Hélène Cixous and Paul Celan. Taking its cue from Derrida’s 1988 ‘Che cos’è la poesia?’, it proposes that what he calls the ‘poematic’ entails an ethical experience. It seeks to show that the underlying link between the poetic and the ethical as it emerges in Derrida’s text calls for a reconsideration of the relation between the literary and the ethical. Rather than merely describe ethical situations or prescribe ethical behaviour, the poetic involves an ethical experience of the arrival or ‘invention’ (from the Latin invenire: to come upon) of the other. Focusing on Derrida’s notions of responsibility and hospitality in turn, it argues that the interruption at the heart of Derrida’s ethical event is what characterises poetic force. Chapter 1 presents a reading of Derrida’s notion of the poetic as an instance of ethical responsibility. It begins with a discussion of Derrida’s understanding of responsibility that underlines the importance of the interrelation between the secret, the call and the response. It subsequently argues that the poetic dictate, like responsibility, also involves an interruptive call or apostrophe that demands a response. Referring closely to the biblical narrative of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac as well as Derrida’s notions of the ‘double yes’ and the countersignature, it finally considers the ethics of poetic response. Chapter 2 claims that the force of Hélène Cixous’s work is intricately bound to the Derridean ethical imperative of responsibility as explored in Chapter 1. It begins by showing the parallels between Cixous’s ‘coming to writing’ and the Derridean notion of the poetic dictate. It maintains that the complex question of genre in Cixous’s work is related to her writing practice as an instance of submitting to the call of the other. Finally, it argues that the ethical import of her work is to be found in what Derrida has described in terms of a monstrous force. Turning its attention primarily to Derrida’s seminars around the subject of hospitality, Chapter 3 begins by focusing on the inherent violence in hospitality through an analysis of the etymological root of the word ‘hospitality’ and Derrida’s neologism ‘hostipitality’. It then addresses Derrida’s aphoristic claim that an ‘act of hospitality can only be poetic’. Relating this assertion to his understanding of invention as the instance of the coming of the other, it argues that the poetic is ethical at its core because it invents the impossible. Finally, drawing out the implications of Derridean hospitality for a reading of Sophocles’ play ‘Antigone’, it demonstrates that the eponymous character enacts the poetic experience at the centre of the discussion. In an extended analysis of the notion poetic hospitality, Chapter 4 takes the concept of the uncanny in Paul Celan’s ‘Der Meridian’ speech as its foremost concern. It makes the claim that the ethical force in Celan’s oeuvre lies in its power to overcome the uncanny automaticity of art. It then turns to ‘Die Niemandsrose’ to explore the uncanny in relation to what Celan calls the ‘groundlessness’ of the poem. Finally, it suggests that the uncanny in Celan’s oeuvre can be seen as the ethical counterpart to the aesthetic of the Romantic sublime that is arguably no longer possible today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN Literature (General) ; PN0080 Criticism