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Literature and Weak Thought


Andrzej Zawadzki

This book is a reconstruction and presentation of the fundamental assumptions of the so-called weak thought, as elaborated mainly by the Italian hermeneutical philosopher Gianni Vattimo and the Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica in his ontology. Both Noica and Vattimo focus on all that is existentially fragile, deficient, crippled or defective. The way in which weak being manifests itself can be best expressed by using the concept of the trace. Some motifs of weak thought serve to reinterpret certain fundamental concepts of poetics, firstly, the concept of mimesis, treated here as a kind of tracing, and secondly, the concept of the textual subject as a trace. The book also describes these tendencies in modern literature in which the intuition of weak being has most fully expressed itself. In general terms, this intuition is that of a reality that has lost its substantiality and essentiality. This intuition is most frequently expressed by the motif of the trace in its various different meanings: as the imprint, the remnant, the sign-message.


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Introduction The interpretations included in this section are of an illustrative nature – in the sense that the conception of weak ontology and the idea of the trace guide my readings of particular texts. However, I do not wish to treat creative literature as mere exemplification of philosophical theses, or even of concepts from literary theory. In fact, I shall try to demonstrate how the texts interpreted here may disturb the clarity of my earlier division into three types of traces. Weakness and the idea of the trace will take on rich, various and often unexpected meanings. At the same time, I believe that reading selected examples from modern Polish literature through the lens of the concept of weak ontology – and especially of the trace in its various forms – will allow me to connect literature with certain crucial philosophical problems, to reveal previously imperceptible links between certain texts, and, finally, to recognize a certain essential tradition in Polish literary modernism and to describe it in a more or less consistent language. For example, the theme of the faulty, shoddy reality, which appears frequently in the literature of the 1990s (Andrzej Stasiuk, Magdalena Tulli), appears to originate in Bruno Schulz’s prose. Roman Jaworski, who is treated as the patron of the aesthetics of the ugly and grotesque in Polish literature of the twentieth century, may also be acknowledged as the patron of the popular 1960s concepts of the “trash heap” of culture (Tadeusz Różewicz) and the “wreck” (Tadeusz Kantor). Jaworski was...

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