Vol. 1 No. 1 (2023)
Thematic Section

A Poetic Revolution of the Political: Derrida’s Reading of Celan’s “Meridian” in The Beast and the Sovereign

János Barcsák
Pázmány Péter Catholic University
Pázmány Papers vol. 1. nr. 1.

Published 12/18/2023 — Updated on 06/13/2024


  • Jacques Derrida,
  • Paul Celan,
  • sovereignty,
  • The Meridian,
  • poetry


In this paper I attempt to give a reading of Jacques Derrida’s second extended interpretation of Paul Celan’s “Meridian.” This second interpretation can be found in Derrida’s “seminar,” The Beast and the Sovereign, and differs from the first – which appeared in Shibboleth: For Paul Celan – in that it is placed in the broader context of the seminar: the deconstruction of sovereignty. In this context Celan’s “Meridian” acquires a special status because Derrida can identify in it a “step,” an act of freedom, a way, which can perhaps take us beyond all sovereignty by bringing about what Derrida calls “a poetic revolution of the political.” In my reading of Derrida’s reading of Celan I try to spell out the “structure” of this step as Derrida conceives it. I argue that it is ultimately in the difference between two poetic gestures, two equally necessary but still distinct acts, that the poetic revolution of the political and thus the step beyond all sovereignty becomes perhaps possible.