Abstracts

Abstracts

Cathy Caruth, "Introduction"

This introduction frames the critical exploration of the writings on tragedy, translation, and twentieth-century literary theory by the late comparatist Thomas J. McCall, who died suddenly in January 2011 after returning from a mountain trekking trip in Nepal. McCall was a highly respected Romanticist and literary theorist whose important early work on Friedrich Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles ultimately developed into a broader critical speculation concerning the theoretical stakes of Hölderlin’s translations, and his poetics, for German romantic thought and for twentieth-century theory more generally. The three pairs of essays collected in this volume underscore the crucial role of Hölderlin’s notions of translation and poetics in Romantic theory and in contemporary thought, in particular as his ideas have been transmitted through the work of Walter Benjamin. These critical explorations also help us understand the importance of Tom McCall’s work in proposing a radicalized, Hölderlinian theory of tragedy and translation that lingers on in twentieth- and twenty-first-century theoretical writing.

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Cathy Caruth, "Tragedy and Translation: Tom McCall’s ’Case of the Missing Body’"

This essay interprets Tom McCall’s “The Case of the Missing Body,” expanding on the implications of McCall’s suggestion that Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles allegorize the process of translation itself. I examine several key points, or figures, in McCall’s essay, including the problem of “contact” between the immaterial and the material, the problem of the “fatelessness” in the German relation to the Greek and the problem of the “unthinkable” at the heart of the translation process.

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Ian Balfour, "Extreme Philology: Benjamin, Adorno, McCall and the Enigmas of Hölderlin"

This essay addresses the stakes and details of the idea and actuality of philology, broadly and narrowly understood, in its application especially to the work of Friedrich Hölderlin. Hölderlin presents an extreme challenge for philological understanding and the most compelling responses tend to be examples of "extreme philology" exemplified in the words of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Tom McCall. One particular focus is on the under-scrutinized concept of "das Gedichtete" that Benjamin (almost) invents to help make sense of what is going on in Hölderlin's poetry.

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David Ferris, "Mournful Translation: On the Name of Shelley’s Adonais"

This essay focuses on Tom McCall's theory of "wrathful translation" and develops this theory in relation to both Walter Benjamin's account of tragic mourning in The Origin of the German Tragic Drama and the purpose of elegiac renaming in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Adonais." McCall's emphasis on "wrath" or "anger" in Hölderlin's "Remarks on Oedipus" provides a concentrated, and therefore properly tragic, instance of how this genre resists resolution through the self-consciousness or recognitions of its central figure. Starting from such resistance this essay examines the transformation of tragic anger into the elegiac. By way of Benjamin's remarks on naming and mourning, the significance and challenge of "Adonais" is reinterpreted as the consequence of Shelley's recognition that elegiac mourning is the form in which tragic anger and its resistance to any katharsis is translated not only within Romanticism but through Romanticism as the subject that modern elegy is compelled to address.

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Tom McCall, "The Case of the Missing Body"

McCall’s essay proposes that Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles allegorize the process of their own translation. McCall focuses in particular on Hölderlin’s translation of Sophocles’s Antigone, showing how Hölderlin’s rendering of the play turns the problem of the burial of the corpse into a figure for issues of textuality and meaning in the movement between Greek and German.

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Tom McCall, "Plastic Time and Poetic Middles: Benjamin’s Hölderlin"

McCall’s essay provides a summary and interpretation of Walter Benjamin’s early “Two Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin.” McCall argues that this essay provides an anti-aesthetic mode of reading that ties it to a tradition of “poetic calculation” (rather than “inspiration”). McCall shows how the notion of calculaton and “caesura” are bound up with Hölderlin’s own theoretical writing and poetic practice.

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Tom McCall, "Wrathful Translation: The Sophocles of Hölderlin"

McCall’s essay reflects on Hölderlin’s theory of translation as it relates both to translation and to a poetics. He renames this mode of translation “wrathful,” drawing on Hölderlin’s use of the word Zorn to describe (and translate) Oedipus’s wrathful quest for what is “more than consciousness can bear or grasp.” McCall argues that wrath signals the process of “disowning the signifier,” a process that takes placed (and is allegorized) in Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles and is linked to the “disarticulation of the symbolic core of tragedy.”

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