A Red Rose in the Dark: Self-Constitution through the Poetic Language of Zelda, Amichai, Kosman, and Adaf

A Red Rose in the Dark: Self-Constitution through the Poetic Language of Zelda, Amichai, Kosman, and Adaf


Dorit Lemberger
Translated by Edward Levin

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781618114938 (hardcover)
Pages: 430 pp.
Publication Date: June 2016

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How can we characterize the uniqueness of poetic language? How can we describe the evasive enchantment of the paradox that is created by both universal and autobiographical expression? How does ordinary language function aesthetically while motivating the reader to acknowledge himself and to reveal how far his thinking belongs to the present, the future, or the past?

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the central founder of the linguistic turn and the inspiration of countless works, inspires the search of this book for various linguistic functions: dialogic, aesthetic, and mystical. The search investigates four Modern Hebrew poets: Zelda, Yehuda Amichai, Admiel Kosman, and Shimon Adaf based on their family resemblance of intertextuality in their language-games. The book resists social-cultural categorizations as religious vs. secular poetry or Mizrahi vs. Ashkenazi literature, and instead, focuses on Wittgenstein's aspects, suggesting universal interpretation of these corpuses.

Dorit Lemberger is a lecturer at Program of Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies of Bar-Ilan University.

Table of Contents


Chapter One
Poetic Grammar: Three Aspects of Aesthetic Judgment

1. Examination and Judgment of Aesthetic Language: The Fundamental Tension
2. The First Aspect: A Poetic Work as Driving Reflective Introspection
3. The Second Aspect: Conscious Change as the Key to Aesthetic Judgment
4. The Third Aspect: Showing What Cannot Be Said


Chapter Two
Dialogical Grammar: Variations of Dialogue in Wittgenstein’s Methodology as Ways of Self-Constitution

1. “Family Resemblance” between the Platonic Dialogue and Wittgenstein’s Methodology
1.1. Wittgenstein’s Critique of Socrates
1.2. Similarities between Wittgensteinian and Socratic Dialogue
1.3. Language as a Medium of Thought: Soliloquy as Ordinary Language
1.4. Reflective Dialogue: Dialogue between Sense-Perception and Image

2. Wittgensteinian Dialogical Grammar in the Philosophical Investigations: Rhetorical, Conversational, Reflective
2.1. Dialogism in the Philosophical Investigations: “A Surveyable Representation”
2.2. Aspects of Dialogism
2.3. Dialogue as Technique
2.4. Conversational Dialogue
2.5. Reflective Dialogue

Chapter Three
Self-Constitution through Mystical Grammar: The Urge and Its Expressions
Three Channels of Mystical Grammar

1. Preliminary Considerations: Theology as Grammar and the Metaphysical Subject
2. The Mystical-Religious Channel: The Religious Aspect of Mystical Grammar
3. Who Is Experiencing? The Paradox of the I and the “Solution” of the Mystic Subject
4. I as Object—I as Subject: From James to Wittgenstein
5. From Perfectionism to Confession: Work on Oneself

Chapter Four
Zelda: The Complex Self-Constitution of the Believer

1. Expression and Conversion between Everyday and Poetic Grammar
2. Dialogic Grammar: Internal and External Observations
3. Mystical Grammar: Perfectionism and Metaphysics as Zelda’s Varieties of Religious Experience

Chapter Five
Yehuda Amichai: Amen and Love

1. The Poetics of Change: The Grammaticalization of Experience
2. Dialogic Grammar: The Importance of Otherness
3. Reconstruction of the Subject: The Mystical Grammar of Open Closed Open
3.1. The Mechanism of Change as the Key to Perfectionism
3.2. The Conception of an Individual God: God as Change and as Interlocutor
3.3. The Encounter with Biblical Word-Games as the Key to the Reconstruction of the Self
3.4. The Refashioning of Religious Rituals as an Expression of Intersubjective Change of the Self

Chapter Six
Admiel Kosman: We Reached God
The Popping Self

1. The Poetic Grammar of Revolution: The New Believer
1.1. How to Do Things with Words: The Weekly Torah Portion
1.2. When All the Words Are Finished—All Is Intoxicated from Clarity
2. Dialogical Grammar: Self-Constitution as Conversational Process
3. Mystical Grammar: Private Pain and Manifestation of the Other

Chapter Seven
Shimon Adaf: Poetry as Philosophy and Philosophy as Poetry
The Nobility of Pain

1. Icarus Monologue: The Poetic Grammar of Hybrid Imagination
2. What I Thought Shadow Is the Real Body: The Dialogical Grammar of Place, Time, and Memory
2.1. Poetry as a Chronological and Thematic Point of Departure
2.2. The Subject as the Limit of the World
3. Aviva-No: The Grammar of Mourning
4. The Way Music Speaks

Summation: “As if I Could Read the Darkness”




In this stimulating work, Lemberger both exemplifies and explicates Wittgenstein’s dictum: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ Through the work of poets, who constitute their poetic self in the presence of the Divine, Lemberger demonstrates Wittgenstein’s Language Game notion. According to Lemberger, Zelda, Amichai, Kosman, and Adaf—each in their own cultural context—display four distinct modes of self-constitution and a unique Language Game. Thus, Lemberger provides a vigorous analysis of Wittgenstein’s thought along with an impressive picture of the trends in Modern Hebrew poetry.
— Tamar Sovran, Chair, Rosenberg School of Jewish Studies, Tel Aviv University
Lemberger offers a theoretically rich yet highly accessible study of Zelda, Amichai, Adaf and Kossman. Readers will be treated to a fascinating perspective on poetry, and how it intersects with religion, Jewish tradition, and the formation of identity. Using Wittgenstein’s theory, Lemberger opens up a new path for exploration of the richness of the works studied. In her original treatment of the changing of self-religious view, she presents a new emphasis on the poets’ reconstitution of self through the prism of religious belief. Amichai’s poetic persona stands out in particular by juxtaposing his final book with all his former books. Lemberger demonstrates the dynamics of Amichai’s relation to God and Jewish symbols in the earlier stages of his life, comparing them with his late years, unveiling his reversion. Most impressive is Lemberger’s insightful close reading that enables expert readers and students alike to be excited and moved by these beautifully interpreted poems.
— Adina A. Ofek, Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Emeritus) and Editor, Hebrew Higher Education