Storytelling: The Destruction of the Inalienable in the Age of the Holocaust

SUNY Press
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 An innovative philosophical meditation on the muteness of Holocaust survivors and the human faculty of storytelling.
In Storytelling, Rodolphe Gasché reexamines the muteness of Holocaust survivors, that is, their inability to tell their stories. This phenomenon has not been explained up to now without reducing the violence of the events to which survivors were subjected, on the one hand, and diminishing the specific harm that has been done to them as human beings, on the other. Distinguishing storytelling from testifying and providing information, Gasché asserts that the utter senselessness of the violence inflicted upon them is what inhibited survivors from making sense of their experience in the form of tellable stories. In a series of readings of major theories of storytelling by three thinkers—Wilhelm Schapp, whose work will be a welcome discovery to many English-speaking audiences, Walter Benjamin, and Hannah Arendt—Gasché systematically assesses the consequences of the loss of the storytelling faculty, considered by some an inalienable possession of the human, both for the victims’ humanity and for philosophy.

“This book pursues the problem of what happens when the stories that are the object of narration become so enigmatic and troublesome that they withdraw from the realm of communicability and meaning into the space of a certain muteness. By focusing on Schapp, Benjamin, and Arendt, Gasché succeeds brilliantly in weaving together the three strands that are most vital to its subject: philosophical rigor, literary sensitivity, and historical concreteness.” — Gerhard Richter, author of Inheriting Walter Benjamin
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About the author

 Rodolphe Gasché is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Eugenio Donato Professor of Comparative Literature at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. His many books include Deconstruction, Its Force, Its Violence: together with “Have We Done with the Empire of Judgment?,” also published by SUNY Press.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Sep 21, 2018
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Pages
160
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ISBN
9781438471471
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Language
English
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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This book seeks to develop a novel approach to literature beyond the conventional divide between realism/formalism and history/aestheticism. It accomplishes this not only through a radical reassessment of the
specificity of literature in distinction from one of its others--namely, philosophy--but above all by taking critical issue with the venerable concept of the "text" and its association with the artisanal techniques of weaving and interlacing. This conception of the text as an artisanal fabric is, the author holds, the unreflected presupposition of both realist, or historicist, and reflective, or "deconstructive," criticism.

Gasché argues that "the scenes of production" within literary works, created by their authors yet independent of those authors' intentions, stage a work's own production in virtual fashion and thus accomplish for those works a certain ideal ontological status that allows for both historical endurance and creative interpretation.

In Gasché's construction of these scenes, in which literary works render visible within their own fabric the invisible conditions of their autonomous existence, certain images prevail: the fold, the star, the veil. By showing that these literary images are not simply the opposites of concepts, he not only puts into question the common opposition between literature and philosophy but shows that literary works perform a way of "argumentation" that, in spite of all its difference from philosophical conceptuality, is on a par with it.

The argument progresses through close readings of literary works by Lautréamont, Nerval, de l'Isle Adam, Huysman, Flaubert, Artaud, Blanchot, Defoe, and Melville.

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