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'Das Undarstellbare darstellen' : Kulturkritik and the Representation of Difference in the works of Anne Duden
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Dr Teresa Ludden
Eke, NO; Plachta, B
Amsterdamer Publikationen zur Sprache und Literatur
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This monograph examines Kulturkritik and the question of the representation of difference in the work of Anne Duden. It uncovers a far-reaching interrogation of Western culture in Duden’s work as oppositional relations between culture-nature, mind-body, subject and object are constantly questioned. It examines the criticism of the treatment of the body in Western culture which appears in the texts in a variety of ways. Through oblique reference to Cartesian and Enlightenment selves, the texts question dominant modes of being in the West and the consequences of this promotion. This is examined firstly through an analysis of Duden’s essays on paintings of George and the dragon where the links between Duden’s thought and the radical philosophy coming out of the 1960s are investigated. Then the prose works Übergang and Das Judasschaf are explored to highlight the criticism of binary structures which I argue needs to be understood with reference to the types of selves and bodies which are privileged in Western culture; the production of ‘useful/rational’ bodies and hierarchical and oppositional subject-object, mind-matter relations prevalent in Enlightenment thought. I also argue that there is not just a criticism of structures perceived to be dominant in Western culture in Duden’s texts, but that different modes of being are conveyed by the writing as differences within culture. The narrators become selves through fluid processes of interchange with the environment rather than existing as fixed entities. This analysis is linked to Duden’s questioning of abstract and generalised concepts which enables a reading of the experiences of the narrators not as a ‘breakdown’ or loss of self, but as expressions of alternative modes of being. A close examination of the narrative style in Übergang and Das Judasschaf analyses how selves, bodies and reality are represented. I argue that the writing is centrally concerned with areas beneath fixed forms and remains immanent to the experiences of pain, dissolution, joy, panic and the semi-conscious body rather than transcending and translating them into speech. Thus the writing continually gives us the impression that it paradoxically narrates word-less experiences. This writing of the body and other realms normally considered beyond representation questions universal norms and concepts. However, the narrative does not descend into nonsense and differences and specificities are not located beyond words but expressed in the text. The avant-garde properties of Duden’s texts are examined through an analysis of montage techniques and the juxtaposition of levels of time in Übergang and Das Judasschaf. Narrative and formal aspects are then explicitly linked to history and politics in an examination of Das Judasschaf and the centrality of the problem of living in a post-Holocaust culture. I will argue that the text’s Kulturkritik indirectly interrogates the culture which produced the Holocaust and that the breakdown of narrative can be linked to the complexities of the post-Holocaust historical state. In addition the presentation of the Holocaust through the quotation of historical documents is understood in terms of the text’s inability to represent the Holocaust. Aesthetics and politics are also brought together in the examination of the Steinschlag poems. With reference to Duden’s essays on aesthetics, I argue that the Steinschlag texts speak with and through the broken remains of a language left over from the atrocities of the 20th Century. The musical re-configurations of the remnants, however, produce a negative hope by speaking from the sites of the gaps in culture and history.
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