Levi paper _MLA citations_.doc - John Eugene English 458...

This preview shows page 1 - 3 out of 8 pages.

John EugeneEnglish 458Prof. Daniel R. ScwarzPrimo Levi and the Transformation of LanguagePoetic development fromSurvival in AuschwitztoThe Periodic TableIt has been suggested that the Holocaust, with its tragic revelation of the depths ofevil and the shockingly human face that went with it, has cast away such illusion as wasever used to fuel the world of imaginative literature.It is in this light that Adorno says,“After Auschwitz to write a poem is barbaric.”Fortunately, as with most humanassertions of the Absolute, we have seen in the years since the Holocaust that such aconclusion was premature.Poetry and the human spirit that evokes it have found newand transforming power in the writing of Holocaust survivors themselves, a group ofauthors whose poetry treats the tragedy of the concentration camps as if it were the veryashes of the Phoenix. Prominent among these literary figures is Primo Levi, an ItalianJew whose life as a chemist and time of residency in Auschwitz have provided the rawartistic material for a number of memoirs, two of which,Survival in AuschwitzandThePeriodic Table, purposefully explore and manipulate the relationship between linguisticform and narrative content as a means to redemptively transform human experience.Survival in Auschwitzacquaints us with the language confusion of the camps and thesemantic problems of narrating personal Holocaust experience whileThe Periodic Tableseeks to resurrect language in order to impose a strong and redemptive poetic form on thechaotic world of Levi’s memory.Before entering into the seemingly most fundamental aspect of our discussion, theBabel-like confusion of the camps, we must address the most immediate obstacle toLevi’s memoir writing, namely that his writing takes place in a world in which theconcentration camp, the Lager, is factually extinct.The destructive element in which hisbody and soul were for so long immersed, and which provides the entire world of
Survival in Auschwitz, has been eradicated by the end of the war and by the strangeexodus of repatriation which he narrates inThe Reawakening.Levi’s act of writing, ofnarrative reconstruction from imperfect memory, thus takes place in a world that has notexperienced the Lager, indeed, depends on him to make it known, and so has noexperiential referent for the linguistic symbols demanded by the act of telling.As Leviputs it,Just as our hunger is not that feeling of missing a meal, so our way of being coldhas need of a new word.We say ‘hunger,’ we say ‘tiredness,’ ‘pain,’ we say‘winter’ and they are different things.They are free words, created and used byfree men who lived in comfort and suffering in their homes.If the Lagers hadlasted longer a new, harsh language would have been born; and only thislanguage could express what it means to toil the whole day in the wind, with thetemperature below freezing, wearing only a shirt, underpants, cloth jacket and

Upload your study docs or become a

Course Hero member to access this document

Upload your study docs or become a

Course Hero member to access this document

End of preview. Want to read all 8 pages?

Upload your study docs or become a

Course Hero member to access this document

Term
Spring
Professor
N/A
Tags
Levi, Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz,

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture