Thursday, January 18, 2007

Der Riss, Etching, Geographical Upheaval in Celan

As we proceed with our analysis of the second poem of Atemwende, Suhrkamp Verlag (Frankfurt am Main 1967), I believe it is important to focus on two concepts-the physical process of etching and Heidegger’s use of the German word, der Riss, which refers us back to our discussion of Pyramus and Thisbe and propels us forward into Heidegger’s concept of art, a concept that Celan engaged, studied, incorporated, and debated for over ten years. Further, held within the word-der Riss-is a semantic connection to the concepts of divide, tear, and furrow, which rhetorically connects the second poem in the collection to the third and associates a tear, a furrow (die Rille) or a rift with the actual process of etching through a figurative comparing of the rift in the seam of Brotland that forms the Lebensberg with the physical processes of the art. According to the catalogue of the National Gallery of art -Etching is an intaglio technique whereby marks are bitten into the metal plate by chemical action. The plate is coated with a ground (either hard or softground) impervious to acid through which the artist draws to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath until the open lines of areas are sufficiently bitten. Finally, the ground is removed and the plate inked and printed. Etching is commonly used in combination with drypoint, aquatint, and other intaglio processes. The language employed in this definition seems to connect metaphorically with seismic activities that cause mountains to spring from the earth and locate some of the imagery in the world/earth dichotomy. Further, the divide between the mountain and the land creates both a physical barrier (geographical) and a figurative (concealed/unconcealed) barrier between the “ich” and the “du” that is ultimately juxtaposed metaphorically between the states of sleep and waking.

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