Silence and dialogue: The hermetic poetry of Wáng Wéi and Paul Celan

Yi Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


As we try to come to grips with the notion of “dialogue”, our thoughts may well turn to Hans-Georg Gadamer, who interprets dialogue as the connecting link between reader and text in an eventual “fusion of horizons” – the central topic of his philosophical hermeneutics, in particular in Truth and Method . And as he later clarifies, this is not just a matter of our relationship with texts. The kind of mutual understanding we can achieve through our innate capacity for language reflects the essential mode of human existence. Which raises the question: Can dialogue, when granted such a profoundly ontological status, conceivably have limits? Gadamer himself seeks to explore this question through an analysis in Paul Celan, the quintessential German “hermetic” poet. Faced with Celan, Gadamer develops the concept of “silence”, partly as a metaphor for a willing acceptance of the “non-­ understandable”, and partly as a suitable method by which to approach hermetic writing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterature as Dialogue
Subtitle of host publicationInvitations Offered and Negotiated
EditorsRoger D. Sell
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9789027269898
ISBN (Print)9789027210395
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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