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Threshold-Language: Paul Celan, Parmenides

Kristina Mendicino, Brown University

November 16, 2020 · 12:00 pm-1:30 pm · via Zoom

Department of German

The essay that will be pre-circulated for this workshop addresses the liminal movements of language that Paul Celan renders most pronounced in, among others, the collection of poems that he would call From Threshold to Threshold (Von Schwelle zu Schwelle).

Already the title exposes each “threshold”-word to part from itself—“from threshold”—towards the same—“to threshold”—without coinciding with itself, collapsing into sameness, or coming to rest. Taking this minimal syntagm as her point of departure, Mendicino argues that Celan’s poetry exposes the self-alteration to which language gives way, with every term. This characteristic occurrence in language is then retraced, in particular, through a reading of the poem, “Mit wechselndem Schlüssel,” whose title cites a key phrase from the proemium of Parmenides’s poem on being, initiating a poetic exploration of those traits from Parmenides’ threshold-scene which show it to be no mere preliminary to a “steady way of being,” but to mark a liminal site for alterity and alteration that there is no getting through with.

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