COMPLIT 791 - Seminar in Literary Theory
Section: 002 The Sacred, the Foreign and the Profane in (Jewish) Language
Term: WN 2014
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing.
May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

This course explores writings on language by Walter Benjamin, Gershom Scholem, Franz Rosenzweig, Haim Nahman Bialik, and Jacques Derrida. We will analyze these texts with an eye to the interactions of the sacred and the profane in language, the issues of names and naming, of creation in and through language, and the notion of the void or abyss and its presence in language. Our discussions of influential essays and letters by these thinkers will situate them in their historical, philosophical, religious, and cultural contexts. Both Benjamin and Bialik, for example, wrote their essays on language during World War I, and their divergent attempts to recapture the sacred in language need to be considered in view of the war and its violence. The course also examines these essays in the context of the movement to modernize Hebrew and the rise of Zionism: how have Scholem, scholar of Jewish mysticism, and Bialik, national Hebrew poet, articulated their relationships to this “revival” and the potential secularization of language that it entails? In what language(s) were they writing and how does this affect their conceptions of language as a political entity? And how have later critics, such as Derrida, revisited these ideas to envision the possibility of a “third language,” both secular and sacred at once?

Our theoretical discussions will be accompanied by readings of contemporaneous literary texts that enact, contradict, or offer alternate perspectives to those found in the essays on language. Literary readings will be drawn from students’ own interests, and will also include works by Franz Kafka, Georg Trakl, Paul Celan, Ingeborg Bachmann, S.Y. Agnon, and Dan Pagis.

Course Requirements:

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COMPLIT 791 - Seminar in Literary Theory
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
WF 3:00PM - 5:00PM
002 (SEM)
M 1:00PM - 4:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0804732892
The monolingualism of the other : the prosthesis of origin., Author: Jacques Derrida ; transl. by Patrick Mensah., Publisher: Stanford University Press 1998
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