“Meaningful Adjacencies” initiates the first in a series of textual couplings that populate the book: a passage about the Jewish cemetery in Bad Kissingen from W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants in conjunction with Reflecting Absences, Michael Arad’s architectural design for the September 11th Memorial. On display in these two memorial texts (or through transactions prompted of their readers) are some of the tropes developed over the next eight chapters. They are (1) corporeality—making palpable contact with the literary artifact in one’s hands; 2) the tact inside of tactility; (3) ethical proximity—the nearness and enigmatic tug of meaningful adjacency that stops short of coincidence; (4) difficult reading—a semiotic order not transparently apprehended; (5) limit cases from which one may work backward toward norm or definition; and finally, (6) a “coming and going” (va-et-vient) between the everyday and the holy. Such are the criteria proposed by the book for literary language and for sacred scripture alike—“the difficult and the holy”—which, according to the rabbinic formula for the relationship between text and human touch, make the hands impure.
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