This article addresses the pervasive articulation of nothing in the poetry of Paul Celan and Dan Pagis. The essay ties nullification in speech to cancellation of self in Celan and aims to understand his attestation of a form of subjectivity reconfigured by the Holocaust as negative presence. Celan's depictions of negative subjectivity, I argue, vitally inform his attempt to create a negative poetics and reveal an important distinction between Celan's and Heidegger's ontologies of nothing. For Heidegger, nothing is nothing more than negation; for Celan, however, nothing may itself be negated. Finally, by tracing the same structure of negated subjectivity in the work of the Hebrew poet Dan Pagis, I show that this dispute is not merely a local debate between two German-language thinkers but an indication of a deeper fault line in poetic representation of the Holocaust.
Research Article|December 01 2014
Daniel Feldman; Writing Nothing: Negation and Subjectivity in the Holocaust Poetry of Paul Celan and Dan Pagis. Comparative Literature 1 December 2014; 66 (4): 438–458. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2823874
Download citation file: