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Final Writing for Block 4

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 3 months ago

NOTE: This page is no longer updated... See: Working thesis


The Story:


My thesis topic was first conceived during the junior/senior seminar in philosophy that I took seventh block last year. In it, I read a book by Richard Bernstein called Radical Evil that included a quote by Hannah Arendt about how she felt upon hearing about the Shoah for the first time. She described it as an "abyss" opening in her that could never be filled. This abyss that must always remain open reminded me of Derrida's description of language as a system with an arbitrary center. Once we realize that the placeholder in the center is arbitrary, it loses its meaning and drops out. Such a description leaves me with an image of language (as viewed by post-modernists) as something we once thought of as whole that now has an abyss in it that can never be filled. This is, I understand, an oversimplified comparison that is unfair both to Derrida and Arendt, but it was an interesting comparison: the response to the Shoah and the response to post-modernism. With this vague understanding in mind, I applied for a Lewis Prize in Philosophy (a $500 grant to study a philosophical question in an interesting way) to go to New York and, while taking a class to fulfill the literature component of the comparative literature major, independently study the responses to the Shoah and post-modernism. Unfortunately, Holocaust Studies is a massive field, and I became overwhelmed by the abstractness of my topic and the abundance of reading material. Concentrating on one compelation of essays (__Breaking Crystal__, see my bibliography), I found two related themes throughout the studies: the impossibility/necessity of representation and the new moral responsibility after the Shoah. It was at this time that I first came across the quote from Adorno that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." During the first two blocks of this year, I had discussions with Corinne Scheiner, Judy Genova, and Rick Furtak, and mostly out of the necessity to limit my thesis topic before fourth block, I decided to take up Adorno's question, as I perceived it at that time: is creating/criticising literature morally good? I entered fourth block with this question and a vague inclination that I was going to use Primo Levi

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