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A Weak Messianic PowerFigures of a Time to Come in Benjamin, Derrida, and Celan$
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Michael G. Levine

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255108

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255108.001.0001

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The Day the Sun Stood Still

The Day the Sun Stood Still

Benjamin’s Theses, Celan’s Realignments, Trauma, and the Eichmann Trial

(p.14) Two The Day the Sun Stood Still
A Weak Messianic Power

Michael G. Levine

Fordham University Press

The chapter glosses the notion of a weak messianic power, arguing that it be understood first and foremost in terms of unrealized potential and latent potency. What remains unrealized, Benjamin suggests, stays with us, remaining not merely as a lingering echo but as a secretly insistent appeal. What speaks to us out of the past, what summons us to a secret appointment with it, is strictly speaking that which will never have belonged to it or that which will have belonged only as a missed possibility and unrealized potential. Because such appeals involve speech of another nature they require from the addressee a special attunement, perhaps even a certain mode of unconscious receptivity. The chapter argues that the materialist historian is such an addressee and that his work consists in attuning himself to the repetition of traumatic moments in Benjamin’s own writings as well as to key moments of testimonial failure in the Eichmann trial. These moments remain literally unforgettable and as such function as the sign of a constantly replayed and still ungrasped kernel of collective memory. Such replays are understood as traumatic flashbacks, as the insistent appeal of what speaks to us out of a certain historical unconscious.

Keywords:   Trauma, Constellation, Citability, Revolutionary Calendars, Eichmann Trial, Dates, Judgment Day, Felman, Friendship, Juridical Unconscious

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