link from Meister:
John Felstiner notes that the word meister in German "can designate God, Christ, rabbi, teacher, champion, captain, owner, guildsman, master of arts or theology, labor-camp overseer, musical maestro, "master" race, not to mention Goethe's Wilhelm Meister and Wagner's Meistersinger von Nurnberg, which carries overtones of the 1935 Nuremberg racial laws.."(These laws codified the racial discrimination against the Jews in Nazi Germany and were extended in practice to all the countries the Germans occupied.) (Paul Celan, p. 39) Celan's precise word choice allows him once again to pack a whole history into one word: the reference to two icons of German-speaking culture (and western European culture) the writer, Goethe, and the composer, Wagner, thickened by associations to religion (both the Old Testament God shared by the Jews and the Christians and the Christian figure of Christ), to education and to social prominence. In one word, Celan manages to indict multiple strands of the 'civilisation' whose most recent flowering was the Holocaust. What associations does the use of this word arouse in you as a reader? How do these associations lead you to read this section of the poem?
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