Trauma and Representation: More in Response to LaCapra


The title I have given to today’s post is enough of an introduction to the following entry from my journal.  I will only add here, as a side comment, that my own reading of the Augustinian (if not so much of the so called “Gnostic”) tradition sees far less of what LaCapra,  in a passage cited in the entry below, calls “extreme world-negating, ascetic, transcendental Christianity” than he seems to.  Eventually, I will have a bit more to say about that particular issue in some entries I plan to share in future posts.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Working now back to LaCapra’s Representing the Holocaust:  History, Theory, Trauma, of 1994.  Read chapter on Heidegger and the Nazi’s before going back to start of book.

Preface(p. xi):  “The Holocaust has been both repressed and ‘canonized’ in the recent past . . .”  Even his own later thought (if not in this work itself) suggests that the two go together:  the canonization is a way of repressing.

In the chapter, “Heidegger’s Nazi Turn” (pp. 137-168), with which I tend to be in overall agreement [concerning what he says on the question of Heidegger’s relations with the Nazis], despite disagreement on some small specific points [on that same, limited matter], LaCapra does already in this work what I criticize under [item #]1 in my entry [given in my immediately preceding post, put up on January 7, two days ago] for Easter Sunday, March 23, above, when he writes:  “In addition,  this indiscriminate form of ‘culture critique’ [which he thinks he finds in Being and Time] is reinforced or  doubled by the uncritical role of secularized and displaced Christian motifs whose provenance and precise nature are not thematized as a problem–motifs such as fallenness, originary guilt, the  call of conscience, and the everyday as the locus of divertisement.  In this respect the text often reads like an evacuated secular version of extreme world-negating, ascetic, transcendental Christianity in the Augustinian (if not the Gnostic) tradition.”

There are a lot of problems in what he says here, including under-recognition of how openly, taking his  whole work, Heidegger acknowledges perfectly consciously his own provenance in  Augustine, Paul, etc.  But above all I’m citing it [that is, citing LaCapra’s passage above] for reinforcement of the  point I made in that earlier, Easter entry:  LaCapra fails to  see and explore the possibility of reading these “secularized” Christian elements of Heidegger’s thought, not as “displaced,” but as brought to  clarity and  fulfilled only in such “secularization.”  LaCapra, here at least, shows no familiarity with what Heidegger says about the relationship between “phenomenology” and “theology” in his earlier works [by which I here in my journal mean the lecture courses he gave at Freiburg and Marburg even before the publication of Being and Time in 1927] and the lecture “Phenomenology and Theology” [given after the appearance of Being and Time].

Later, however, to cite something I think is much  nearer the mark, LaCapra (pp. 161-162) suggests reading Heidegger’s thoughts on “resoluteness,” “repetition,” and “moment of vision” in terms of Freud’s contrast of working-through vs. acting-out:  “The moment of vision in this sense would be a certain kind of repetition in the face of trauma and the uncanny anxiety it brings.”

He’s on the money there, I think.

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