The word in transition: Joyce, Klee and Benjamin

Date of Completion

January 1999


Literature, Modern|Literature, Romance|Art History|Literature, English|Language, General




The riddle-texts of Joyce and Benjamin have a serious message for a world in which the quest for racial and cultural purity has led to countless atrocities. The concept of home or identity mapped out in the work of both men is rooted in the “in-between world” of art. In the work of both men, this “in-between world” is linked with a language of mourning and play. “How language can fill itself with sadness, how language can express sadness”: these questions, articulated by Benjamin in “The role of Language in Trauerspiel and Tragedy,” are key questions in the work of both men. Both men found a strategy to blast apart the auratic in the work of the artist, poet, musician and mystic, Paul Klee. ^ Inspired by what Carola Giedion-Welcker calls the “principle of chromatic superimposition and change” which informs Klee's work, and by his struggle to cross the invisible barrier between the “I” and the “you,” both men set out to forge a new philosophy of language rooted in a mediating betweeness. ^