By Michael G. Levine

In his recognized theses at the philosophy of historical past, Benjamin writes: "We were endowed with a susceptible messianic strength to which the prior has a claim." This declare addresses us not only from the prior yet from what is going to have belonged to it in simple terms as a neglected risk and unrealized capability. For Benajmin, as for Celan and Derrida, what hasn't ever been actualized continues to be with us, no longer as a lingering echo yet as a secretly insistent allure. simply because such appeals don't go through common channels of communique, they require a unique attunement, maybe even a style of subconscious receptivity. Levine examines the ways that this attunement is cultivated in Benjamin's philosophical, autobiographical, and photohistorical writings; Celan's poetry and poetological addresses; and Derrida's writings on Celan.

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Extra resources for A Weak Messianic Power: Figures of a Time to Come in Benjamin, Derrida, and Celan

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Indb 21 7/30/13 11:20:09 AM 22 The Day the Sun Stood Still tion a shock, by which thinking is crystallized into a monad. The historical materialist approaches a historical object only where it confronts him as a monad. In this structure he recognizes the sign of a messianic arrest of happening, [. ] a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past. He takes cognizance of it in order to blast a specific era out of the homogenous course of history. (SW 4: 396 trans. 2: 702–3) Celan’s poem “IN ONE” does the work of the historical materialist described by Benjamin, blasting certain moments out of the course of history.

Not only does it keep returning, but it keeps us, in our turn, revolving around it. Thus, perhaps what is new about “poems written today” is their particular mindfulness of the way they are held in thrall by certain traumatic events and are forced to orbit compulsively around them. Yet, the orbital paths traced by Celan’s poems do more than simply mark the points and dates on which they remain stuck. ” “Unsheltered even by the traditional tent of the heavens” and “exposed in an unsuspected, terrifying way,” Celan turns to the revolutionary movement of dates rather than to any static configuration of stars to get his bearings.

January 20th, 1942, Celan is saying, is just such a date. Not only does it keep returning, but it keeps us, in our turn, revolving around it. Thus, perhaps what is new about “poems written today” is their particular mindfulness of the way they are held in thrall by certain traumatic events and are forced to orbit compulsively around them. Yet, the orbital paths traced by Celan’s poems do more than simply mark the points and dates on which they remain stuck. ” “Unsheltered even by the traditional tent of the heavens” and “exposed in an unsuspected, terrifying way,” Celan turns to the revolutionary movement of dates rather than to any static configuration of stars to get his bearings.

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