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To Make the Hands ImpureArt, Ethical Adventure, the Difficult and the Holy$
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Adam Zachary Newton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263516

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263516.001.0001

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Abyss, Volcano, and the Frozen Swirl of Words

Abyss, Volcano, and the Frozen Swirl of Words

The Difficult and the Holy in Agnon, Bialik, and Scholem

(p.235) Chapter 7 Abyss, Volcano, and the Frozen Swirl of Words
To Make the Hands Impure

Adam Zachary Newton

Fordham University Press

Chapter 7 corresponds itself to the third major part of the book, “Languages.” Its title, “Abyss, Volcano, and the Frozen Swirl of Words” incorporates metaphors drawn from essays by Gershom Scholem and Emmanuel Levinas about the Aktualisierung (“actualization”) or Verweltlichung (“secularization”) of Hebrew in the twentieth century. Restaging the interplay of “difficult” and “holy,” the chapter groups together a set of philosophical essays about translation and language in its material aspect: “Revealment and Concealment in Language” from 1915, by Hayyim Nahman Bialik; “Confession on the Subject of Our Language”, a 1926 letter from Gershom Scholem dedicated to Franz Rosenzweig; and Rosenzweig’s 1926 and 1925 essays, “Scripture and Luther” and “New Hebrew.” The chapter is bookended by excerpts from Bialik’s 1904 poem “Before the Bookcase” and the remarkable hymn to the Hebrew language from 1946, “Engraved Are Your Letters” by the American He- braist Abraham Regelson. Walter Benjamin’s 1916 essay, “On Language as Such and the Language of Man” and the 1923 essay on translation serve as points of reference, along with Levinas’s “Poetry and Resurrection: Notes on Agnon” from 1976. “The Eyes of Language: The Abyss and the Volcano,” Derrida’s fervent and ingenious 1986 essay analyzing the Scholem letter, and Monolingualism of the Other, his 1996 text on Rosenzweig, provide a postmodern counterpoint.

Keywords:   Abyss, Volcano, Ethics, Translation, Language, Hebrew, Foreign, Sacred, Jewish, Philosophy, S. Y. Agnon, H. N. Bialik, Walter Benjamin, Gershom Scholem, Franz Rosenzweig, Jacques Derrida, Abraham Regelson, Postmodern

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