This text focuses on the relevance of the proper name in the conceptions of language and history that inform the thought of Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger and Rosenzweig. Their interest in the proper name is because it does not simply operate as a conventional linguistic sign. A specific experience of the Jewish religious tradition (Adorno, Benjamin, Rosenzweig) and a vision of poetry resulting from the reading of Hoelderlin (Heidegger) lead to the idea of an absolute singularity, it is a singularity that resists all conceptual identificaiton and the proper name expresses this singularity in language. In this analysis, history is conceived as a movement that both betrays and tends towards the absolute singularity that manifests itself in the unsayable, i.e. in the name of God, or in poetical language. questions of gesture, translation and melancholia and the moment of apparition in the work of art are comprehensible within Dr Duttmann's discussion, which should be of interest to students of language, philosophy and theology.
Alexander Garcia Duttmann is Professor of Philosophy and Visual Culture at Goldsmiths University of London, UK, and author of The Gift of Language and Memory of Thought, published in the Athlone Contemporary European Thinkers series.