Professor Robert Vilain - inaugural lecture

Professor of German and Head of the School of Modern LanguagesProfessor Robert Vilain
School of Modern Languages

Please note that this lecture has been cancelled.

The Black Milk of Human Unkindness: Yvan Goll – Claire Goll – Paul Celan

The bilingual Franco-German poet Yvan Goll died of leukaemia in 1953. Three years later, his widow, Claire, began to accuse Goll’s former protégé, Paul Celan, of plagiarizing from his last poems, making an allegation to this effect in print in 1960. The accusations, although demonstrably unfounded, were treated sympathetically by some critics, which Celan saw as confirmation of the renewed rise of anti-Semitism in Germany. Many believe that the defamatory campaign contributed directly to the suicide in 1970 of arguably the greatest German-language poet of the post-war era. This lecture will explore the poetry behind this sensational affair as well as the nature of poetic originality and the acutely sensitive politics of plagiarism.