Unlike other poets who had established a private mythology and at the same time provided the reader with a key to it (William Blake’s illuminated books are one of the most interesting instances of this phenomenon), Celan’s poetry corresponds to cases in which the poetics is not only idiosyncratic but hermetic. Among the extensive scholarship on Celan’s poetic, one constantly encounters studies that tend to solve the difficulties posed by Celan’s poetry by referring to his historical-biographical background. – namely, by returning time after time to the Holocaust as a fundamental experience of this poetry. Other research focuses on its intellectual sources and influences (mainly with reference to Heidegger, Benjamin and Sholem), or else on the self-reflexive nature of its language.
In my project, I will shift this focus towards the text itself as an aesthetic product that speaks in its own language and has its own inherent effects. Hence, I will examine the developments and changes in Paul Celan’s conception of time, arguing that the tracing of those changes may serve as a key to Celan’s secretive poetics. The hermetic character of Celan's poetry is a consequence of the poet’s obsession with the themes of time, and above all with mutability, death, memory, and forgetfulness. Celan's interest in these themes is evident on every level of his texts; from the titles of books and poems, through the situations represented in poems, to various linguistic and figurative devices. Consequently Celan’s poetry faces an essential problem, namely, the conventionality of these themes as well as the familiarity of their expressions and representations (e.g. customary metaphors of mutability that recur in poetry throughout the ages). I argue that Celan's solution to this problem is to deautomatise the representation of these hackneyed themes. To this end, the focus of this project is on the art of Celan's deautomatisation of time.