Negotiating the Borderland: Thresholds in Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Paul Celan, and Peter Handke

by Packer, Jeffrey M.

Abstract (Summary)
My dissertation, Negotiating the Borderland: Thresholds in Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Paul Celan, and Peter Handke, focuses on the threshold imagery of these three writers as a means of approaching the often contradictory issues of modernity in the twentieth century. Thresholds offer a literary means for writers to dwell momentarily in an instant of calm amidst the chaos of the modern world. By setting their works within threshold regions, these authors create new spaces that simultaneously maintain an element of separation from society and reestablish a relationship to it. Threshold metaphors are about transgressing boundaries and pushing the limits, but also about lingering "in between" them. A threshold functions as a bridge between extremes in which opposite sides of a paradox coexist The thresholds I explore fall into three general categories: thresholds of time, thresholds of place, and thresholds of language. They take such forms as doorways, rivers, the instant between waking and sleeping, or a turn of breath before speaking. These three threshold types correspond to aspects of spatial, temporal, and linguistic fragmentation that are characteristic of the twentieth-century experience. The cause-and-effect relationship between the three becomes blurred as they come to represent a complex of ideas more than a linear progression from one to the next. These different types of thresholds can be combined to explore fragmentation on all levels as individuals negotiate the boundaries of speech and history and their position in them. I contend that the threshold as a metaphor can both define the phenomenon discussed above, and hint at a resolution of the fragmentation resulting from the pressures of modernity. The threshold becomes a symbol for symbolism per se, by standing as a part, or fragment, for the whole. And it is this wholeness informed and given depth by an awareness of fragmentation that can be discovered in the threshold.
Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:thresholds borders hugo von hofmannsthal paul celan peter handke twentieth century literature


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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