Metamorphoses Of The Letter In Paul Celan, Georges Perec, And Yoko Tawada
This comparative dissertation project examines the critical status of written signs (letters of phonetic alphabets, Sino-Japanese ideograms, mathematical symbols, and punctuation marks) in translational, multilingual and intermedial techniques in literature since World War II and in an increasingly global and multicultural world since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Romanian-German poet Paul Celan, French author Georges Perec, and Japanese-German author Yoko Tawada respond to historical, political and literary moments in Europe that challenge the capacities of verbal arts to articulate turmoil, transformation, and silence, by transfiguring the very medium of writing on the micro-level of individual written signs. International scholarship on these authors and theoretical work on translation and multilingualism focus heavily on reference and meaning, frequently conflating word-fragmentation with illegibility. Often overlooked are elements of writing not widely considered to be vehicles of meaning. In response, this dissertation offers strategies for reading what might appear nonsensical as sensory, and the unreadable as newly legible. This project draws on the history and theories of writing systems from Plato's Cratylus to debates on logocentrism (Jacques Derrida), as well as studies on writing and media, particularly the concept of notational iconicity (Sybille Krämer, Wolfgang Raible, Friedrich Kittler). It argues that Celan, Perec and Tawada subtly transform the very material of writing at the elemental level of written signs, treating letters and by extension texts as material objects in continual transformation. Relatedly, this project shifts its focus from translation as the reproduction of something familiar to transformation as the creation of something new, in order to illustrate that a transformative approach to translation gains far more than what is lost in translation, and that it gains something in addition to the semantic meanings that may accrue in translation. In doing so, this dissertation project offers the microperspective of written signs to Celan, Perec and Tawada scholarship in particular and to the literary humanities in general.
written signs; translation; letters; transformation; intermedia aesthetics; Paul Celan; Georges Perec; Yoko Tawada
Adelson, Leslie Allen
Schwarz, Anette; Melas, Natalie Anne-Marie; Kittler, Wolf
Ph.D. of Germanic Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis