Julian Koch awarded PhD for Research in Comparative Literature
Thesis title: "Effigies or Imaginary Affinities? The conception of the image in the poetry and poetics of Paul Celan and André du Bouchet."
Julian's thesis can be accessed here, through the QMUL institutional repository.
The poets Paul Celan and André du Bouchet were close friends and translated each other’s poetry in the 1960s. Despite their proximity and friendship, this study suggests that they differ fundamentally in their poetics of the image. These two important authors outline two very different avenues in engaging with the image as a centuries old topos in philosophy and art. In his conception of the image, Celan links the iconoclastic impetus of the Second Commandment with the biblical confusion of tongues, believing that our need to speak in metaphors and typos images (Abbilder) after Babel impedes truthful poetic expression. For Celan, the Holocaust is a form of renewal of this linguistic Fall of Man. Nonetheless Celan’s poetry also suggests that we can give testimony to an archetypos (Urbild) through truthful poetic expression. Du Bouchet, on the other hand, conceives of the image as encompassing the visual juxtaposition of black ink on the white page and the semantic paradoxes of his poetry. Du Bouchet distributes words across the page and as his poetry thematises gaps of meaning these gaps not only surface in his language but also extra-linguistically in the white gaps of the page. These different conceptions of the image in Celan and du Bouchet are first delineated by alternating analyses of the two authors’ poetry and poetics. These investigations show Celan’s desire to overcome a typified speech and, in his creation of poetic images, to tend toward truth, or an archetypos, whereas du Bouchet perennially negotiates the paradoxes which constitute his poetic image. In a second step, this study investigates how these differences in their conception of the image inform their respective approach to translating the other.