Paul Celan and Martin Heidegger: An Unresolved Conversation, 1951–1970

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JHU Press, Feb 22, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 249 pages

This work explores the troubled relationship and unfinished intellectual dialogue between Paul Celan, regarded by many as the most important European poet after 1945, and Martin Heidegger, perhaps the most influential figure in twentieth-century philosophy. It centers on the persistent ambivalence Celan, a Holocaust survivor, felt toward a thinker who respected him and at times promoted his poetry. Celan, although strongly affected by Heidegger's writings, struggled to reconcile his admiration of Heidegger's ideas on literature with his revulsion at the thinker's Nazi past. That Celan and Heidegger communicated with each other over a number of years, and in a controversial encounter, met in 1967, is well known. The full duration, extent, and nature of their exchanges and their impact on Celan's poetics has been less understood, however.

In the first systematic analysis of their relationship between 1951 and 1970, James K. Lyon describes how the poet and the philosopher read and responded to each other's work throughout the period. He offers new information about their interactions before, during, and after their famous 1967 meeting at Todtnauberg. He suggests that Celan, who changed his account of that meeting, may have contributed to misreadings of his poem "Todtnauberg." Finally, Lyon discusses their two last meetings after 1967 before the poet's death three years later.

Drawing heavily on documentary material—including Celan's reading notes on more than two dozen works by Heidegger, the philosopher's written response to the poet's "Meridian" speech, and references to Heidegger in Celan's letters—Lyon presents a focused perspective on this critical aspect of the poet's intellectual development and provides important insights into his relationship with Heidegger, transforming previous conceptions of it.


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The Repulsion and Attraction of Opposites
Celan Reads Being and Time 19521953
Connecting with Heidegger 19521954
Earliest Traces of Heidegger in Celans Works 19531954
Celans Notebook on What Is Called Thinking and Introduction to Metaphysics 1954
Doubts Grow and Problems Arise 19541956
The Principle of Reason 1957
Drawing on and Withdrawing from Heidegger 1958
An Implicit Dialogue with Heidegger 1960 12
Descending into the Loneliest Loneliness 1960 1961
Heidegger Reads Celans Meridian 19601961
Freiburg and Todtnauberg 1967
Todtnauberg and Its Aftermath 19671968
Similarities Affinities Borrowings
The Last Years 19681970
Appendix Celans Known Readings of Works by Heidegger

Mounting Cognitive Dissonance Growing Independence 19591960
Celan Begins to Write His Own Poetics 19591960

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About the author (2006)

James K. Lyon is a professor of German at Brigham Young University.

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