Countering destruction with spontaneity, redescription, and playfulness: A philosophical reading of Kross

Dissertation, University of Tartu (2017)
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Abstract
This thesis focuses on a philosophical analysis of literature. The central question is: when making moral choices in a forced labor camp, what options remain? Hannah Arendt has written about the forced labor, concentration and extermination camps as the central institutions of totalitarianism, where the project of complete destruction of unwanted human beings is carried out; the end result is the removal of spontaneity and uniqueness in people. We join Arendt’s insights with those of Richard Rorty who employed the concept of unmaking a person’s world in his discussion of Orwell’s 1984. A synthesis of their ideas highlights the importance of language and the freedom of narrativity for countering the elimination of spontaneity (Rorty emphasized the importance of redescription). Chapter 3 uses this synthesis for analyzing the Gulag stories of an Estonian writer, Jaan Kross. Our reading of the stories “Vürst” and “Halleluuja” outlines the concept of playfulness which employs independent redescription of the characters themselves and the situation, and upholds the inmates’ freedom of narrativity and spontaneity. This playfulness emerges in theatricality, bravura, distance from the situation and its script (the distance-keeping has a notable parallel to Rorty’s concept of irony), enacting the unexpected, and playing with risks and possibilities.
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Archival date: 2017-07-08
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