Log24

Friday, June 2, 2006

Friday June 2, 2006

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 4:23 PM
'Ursprache' beats 'weltschmerz'
to win American spelling bee

 
Weltschmerz

and the
Ursprache

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06A/060602-Weltschmerz.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

From eudaemonist.com,
a quotation from
Paul Zanker's
The Mask of Socrates:

"Zanker describes the photograph [above] as 'Walter Benjamin looking out at the viewer, his head propped on his hand, his face filled with loneliness and weltschmerz.'"

Benjamin was a Jewish Marxist.  For a Jewish perspective on spelling, see Log24, Nov. 11, 2005.  For a leftist perspective on Benjamin and last night's crucial spelling word "Ursprache," see "Ground Zero, an American Origin," by Mary Caputi (Poroi, 2, 1, August 2003):

The Baroque sensibility of ruin emphasizes a meaninglessness that too many possibilities deliver.  Aimlessness and malaise make life into exhausting toil in the absence of  coherence.  In overdetermined realities, meaning appears arbitrary and erratic, as the world's connection to God seems lost or withheld.  At the extreme, everyday life is as full of noise and commotion as it is devoid of intrinsic meaning.  Connections among people wither with the onset of overabundance and despair.  Recognition of this condition induces acedia, a weariness of life.  Here the malaise of modernity and ruins ties to Benjamin's interest in Trauerspiel, German tragic drama, and the tragedies of Shakespeare.  All respond to a plague of lost spiritual connections and a meaningless earthly existence where incessant toil and trouble — "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" — contribute to a chronic, wearing sense of pain.

Benjamin's interest in this form of melancholia, from suffering a sort of spiritual exile, is evident in his 1916 essay "On Language as Such and On the Language of Man."  In this text, he explains that the Ursprache, our "original" language, is "blissful" precisely because it lacks the arbitrariness that results from overdetermination.  Ur-speech is Adamic language, the linguistic power that God gives to Adam to confer identity on the material world.  It contains no arbitrary component, but reveals the unity between God's divine plan and the world as it exists.  Before ruins and fragments, there is no overdetermination to induce the melancholy of acedia.  Instead the originary language implies a unity of transcendent and immanent realms.  "With the creative omnipotence of language it begins, and at the end of language, as it were, assimilates the created, names it.  Language is therefore both the creative and the finished creation; it is word and nature."6

This blissful state between the world and its creator as expressed in Adamic language has its end, of course, in the Fall.  The "ignorance" introduced into the world that ultimately drives our melancholic state of acedia has its inception with the Fall away from the edenic union that joins God's plan to the immediacy of the material world.  What ensues, says Benjamin, is an overabundance of conventional languages, a prattle of meanings now localized hence arbitrary.  A former connection to a defining origin has been lost; and an overdetermined, plethoric state of melancholia forms.  Over-determination stems from over-naming.  "Things have no proper names except in God.  . . . In the language of men, however, they are overnamed."  Overnaming becomes "the linguistic being of melancholy."7

      6 Walter Benjamin, "On Language as Such and On the Languages of Man," Edmund Jephcott, tr., Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Volume I:  1913-1926, Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, eds., Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1997, p. 68.  
      7 Ibid., p. 73.

For a Christian perspective on Adamic language, see Charles Williams's The Place of the Lion.

 

See also the previous entry:

Float like a butterfly,
sting like a

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06A/060602-BeeLogo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06A/060602-Winner.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

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