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James H. Donelan describes how two poets, a philosopher, and a composer – Holderlin,¨ Wordsworth, Hegel, and Beethoven – devel- oped an idea of self-consciousness based on music at the turn of the nineteenth century. This idea became an enduring cultural belief: the understanding of music as an ideal representation of the autonomous creative mind. Against a background of political and cultural upheaval, these four major figures – all born in 1770 – developed this idea in both metaphorical and actual musical structures, thereby establishing both the theory and the practice of asserting self-identity in music. Beethoven still carries the image of the heroic composer today; this book describes how this image originated in both his music and in how others responded to him. Bringing together the fields of philosophy, musicology, and literary criticism, Donelan shows how this develop- ment emerged from the complex changes in European cultural life taking place between 1795 and 1831.

james h. donelan teaches in the Writing Program and the Depart- ments of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His areas of interest are music, aesthetics, poetry, and the teaching of humanities writing, and his articles have appeared in Philosophy and Literature and Critical Texts. He is the lead classical music critic for the Santa Barbara Independent. This is his first book.

For my wife and children



University of California, Santa Barbara



Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521887618

© James H. Donelan 2008

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First published in print format




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List of Musical Examples

page vii



Preface: The Sound and the Spirit


1 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment


Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics


Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment: The Origins of Romantic Self-Consciousness


Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics


The Beginning of Romantic Musical Self-Consciousness


2 Holderlin’s¨

Deutscher Gesang and the Music

of Poetic Self-Consciousness


“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry


“Wechsel der Tone”:¨

The Music of Poetic Language


Divine Self-Positing: “Dichterberuf” and the First Letter to Bohlendorff¨


“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage”: The Divine Origin of Deutscher Gesang


3 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material


Hegel’s Aesthetic Lectures: Origin and Context


Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art


Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art


Music and Subjectivity


The Problem of Absolute Music


Poetry and Music


4 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry


Song and Articulate Meaning: “The Solitary Reaper” Natural Music in The Prelude Text, Voice, and Imagination: “The Dream of the Arab” Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy of Winander”

Text, Voice, and Imagination: “The Dream of the Arab” Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy
Text, Voice, and Imagination: “The Dream of the Arab” Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy
Text, Voice, and Imagination: “The Dream of the Arab” Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy








Textual Silence: “The Blind Beggar”


Conclusion: “On the Power of Sound” and The Prelude


5 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness


Beethoven’s Intellectual Life


The Heroic Style (180312)


The Late Style (181327)


Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B : First Movement


String Quartet No. 13: Middle Movements


String Quartet No. 13: Große Fuge and Finale


Reception of the Late Quartets


Conclusion: The Meaning of a Quartet


6 The Persistence of Sound








List of Musical Examples

1. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 14

2. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 1319

3. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 5155

4. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 5560

5. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 94105

6. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 106111

7. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, Second Movement, Measures 4965

8. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, Sixth Movement, Measures 16



This book is the result of the advice, assistance, and goodwill of many peo- ple over the course of twenty-three years. It began as an independent study project I undertook as an undergraduate at Yale University with Geoffrey Hartman; it became my doctoral dissertation at the same institution, under the wise and patient guidance of Cyrus Hamlin, the single person who has had the longest and most important influence on the project. John Hol- lander gave me a great deal of good advice, as did Leon Plantinga, Harold Bloom, Andrzej Warminski, J. Hillis Miller, Heinrich von Staden and many other members of the Departments of Comparative Literature, English, German, and Music at Yale University, where I studied and worked for fif- teen years. Manfred Frank at the University of Tubingen¨ was also extremely helpful and patient while I was there on a fellowship from the Deutsche Akademishe Austausch Dienst, an extraordinarily benevolent organization to which I am extremely grateful. Haun Saussy has been a good friend and patient listener since we began graduate school together. During my brief stay at the University of California at Berkeley, Lydia Goehr and Joseph Kerman gave me the crucial encouragement and advice that helped me turn the dissertation into a book. Here at UC Santa Barbara,

I have had the assistance of many generous and kind colleagues, including

Lee Rothfarb (who taught me music theory when I was a freshman in college), William Warner, Alan Liu, Bob Erickson, Simon Williams, and the members of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music. Luke Ma

provided essential technical assistance in the preparation of the manuscript. Cody Franchetti’s efforts on behalf of this project rank as one of the most extraordinary demonstrations of generosity, intelligence, and idealism

I have ever encountered, and I am grateful for his help and friendship in ways

I cannot adequately express. He found a copy of my dissertation on a street

in New York City and spent weeks finding me, a total stranger, in California, to tell me how important he thought it was and that it deserved publication. Over the next few years, he worked on the manuscript constantly, suggesting




sources, editing it for clarity and correctness, and lending his considerable musical and linguistic expertise to the project. Many of its finest moments are the direct result of his suggestions, and I cannot imagine how I would have finished it without his help. Linda Peterson at Yale and Muriel Zimmerman at UC Santa Barbara have given me advice and employment when I needed both most. Steven Scher of Dartmouth College invited me to an National Endowment of Humanities Summer Seminar on music and literature that enlightened and energized me. My friends and colleagues in the UC Santa Barbara Writing Program, especially Judy Kirscht, Patrick McHugh, Craig Cotich, John Ramsey, Nick Tingle, Chris Dean, and Karen Lunsford, have all been supportive and encouraging. Victoria Cooper, my editor at Cambridge University Press, has been helpful and encouraging throughout the publication process. My brother Charles and I have always considered our scholarly efforts a kind of joint project, and I see no reason stop believing that now. My parents helped me with everything from the beginning. My wife, Martha, and my children, Jed and Emily, are the source of my energy and inspiration, and this book is dedicated to them.

Preface: The Sound and the Spirit

I hear the motions of the spirit and the sound Of what is secret becomes, for me, a voice That is my own voice speaking in my ear.

– Wallace Stevens, “Chocorua to its Neighbor”

These lines, although written by a twentieth-century American, neverthe- less provide an eloquent summary of what I intend to examine in European poetry, philosophy, and music between 1798 and 1830. Although many crit- ics have studied vision and the visionary in Romantic poetry, relatively few have confronted the related issues of sound, voice, and music, and even fewer have looked into corresponding moments in musical aesthetics and composition. I attempt to answer several questions about these concepts and practices in all three fields and relate these answers to each other. How does musical sound become the articulate voice of the self? How does nat- ural sound become music? How can music represent self-consciousness? I argue that Holderlin¨ and Wordsworth, despite their obvious differences, follow a similar path of self-constitution through a musical conception of poetic sound. Furthermore, I maintain that Hegel and Beethoven, although working in radically different fields, nevertheless establish music and self- consciousness as mutually positing, reciprocal dialectical structures. In other words, at the core of early Romanticism lies a structure – the dialectic of Idealist self-consciousness – and a metaphor – the self-sustaining aes- thetic of absolute music – that mirror and support each other, often in ways difficult to discover. Proving this contention necessarily involves integrating arguments from all three disciplines; I therefore engage the scholarship of the fields of liter- ary criticism, philosophy, and musicology and, when necessary, create ways to bridge their differences. In doing so, I hope not only to prove something that could not be proved by any other means but to follow the example of other researchers in all three fields who have recently created useful,



Preface: The Sound and the Spirit

profound scholarship that is nevertheless available to a wide audience. Among these authors, I include many whose works have been the basis for my own methodology. Lawrence Kramer, for instance, has revealed new possibilities for critical discourse in his recent work on the relation- ship between music and poetry, as well as on the possibilities of meaning in music. In musicology, Scott Burnham’s works on A. B. Marx and Beethoven, as well as Charles Rosen’s landmark studies of musical style and form, have provided a sound basis for a humanistic yet sophisticated understanding of the Vienna School. In philosophy, Andrew Bowie’s examinations of aes- thetics, subjectivity, and the problem of music in Idealist philosophy have also enabled long-standing traditions in philosophical scholarship, literary criticism, and musicology to speak to each other. My purpose is to bring these strands of new interdisciplinary studies together into a single work of philosophical criticism. In calling this work “criticism,” I mean that my primary goal is to interpret individual works through historical, social, or biographical materials rather than to under- stand or create something outside them. However, that is not to say that this work is not also intellectual history; the nature of these figures and their works makes historical arguments inevitable. Holderlin¨ and Hegel, for instance, knew each other well. They attended the Tubinger¨ Stift together, sharing a room with Schelling; they read the same books and even worked on a strange manuscript together, which I examine in the introductory chapter. Idealist philosophy, in various ways and forms, also came to Wordsworth’s attention, mainly via Coleridge; Beethoven praised both Kant and Schiller, the great predecessors of Hegel and Holderlin.¨ All four lived in Europe during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars and could not help but be affected by these events and the enormous social upheaval they precipitated. Nevertheless, another, less identifiable aspect of their lives and careers demands that I take a somewhat less historical approach. All four achieved, both within their lifetimes and in the two centuries afterward, a degree of autonomy that precludes any interpretation dependent on simple ideas of influence or causality. As precise contemporaries (all were born in 1770), none was the mentor or patron of another, and contact between any of them after Hegel’s mysterious break with Holderlin¨ was minimal to nonexistent. Moreover, each embraced a principle of independent creativity and pro- duced works of undeniable individuality. Whatever skepticism we may show in the present toward the idea of the creative genius, as well as toward the idea of subjectivity itself, the Romantic ideal of the autonomous self has an undeniable durability within these modes of discourse and in our

Preface: The Sound and the Spirit xiii

understanding of philosophy, poetry, and music. I examine how the con- cept of self-consciousness became associated with music and musical cre- ativity and describe the relationship between the highly abstract discourse of philosophy and the concrete works of poetry and music of the early Romantic period. My objective, therefore, is to understand their works in their cultural context while acknowledging the continuous tradition of interpretation each of these figures has generated in the intervening two centuries. In doing so, I hope to reconcile the philological and philosophical sides of current academic criticism, which have been engaged in a complex set of ideological disputes. The construction of the subjective self remains a live issue, despite many efforts to declare it dead. In the last few decades, examining Romantic sub- jectivity has not only involved acknowledging or denying that the idea still has currency but also determining whether it constitutes part of a destruc- tive ideology. I hope that the present study establishes (among other things) that subjectivity, then and now, is more than a mere mask, and a great deal more benign than its detractors suggest. I admit that I believe that Idealist philosophy maintains an illuminating role in current intellectual life, but I must also acknowledge the insights of deconstructionist interpretations of Romantic era writings, especially those of Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, and Andrzej Warminski, whose conclusions of unreliability, unreadability, and instability remain firmly within the rigorous tradition of Idealist phi- losophy and philosophical criticism even as they call its assumptions into question. Other critiques of the ideological basis for Romanticism – in literature by Jerome McGann and Terry Eagleton; in musicology by Rose Rosengard Subotnik and Lydia Goehr; and in philosophy by Judith Butler, among others – have also established an understanding of these works and ideas that represents, in my view, more a continuation of the history of Idealism than a break from it. Self-consciousness, as I demonstrate in the introductory chapter, emerged as the central principle of Idealist epistemology in a demonstrable progression from Kant’s distinction between a priori and empirical knowl- edge, to Fichte’s assertion of the self-positing subject, and from there to Holderlin’s¨ and Hegel’s (and possibly Schelling’s) reworking of the idea in their early joint project in aesthetics, the Systemprogramm fragment. This progression depends on history, as represented by the personal, polit- ical, and chronological relationships among particular people at particu- lar moments, yet it also depends on the internal history of philosophy itself – the contention between competing ideas within philosophical dis- course that continues in our era.


Preface: The Sound and the Spirit

At this moment in cultural history, as I also argue in the first chapter, “Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment,” a new ontology of music began to emerge, partly because of Enlightenment developments in musical aesthetics, but primarily due to the achievements of Mozart. The autonomy of the artist, as a self-motivating creative force, is closely allied to the autonomy of the self; little of this Romantic notion would exist without Mozart’s struggle to overcome the noble patronage system of his time. Moreover, Mozart’s music reflects not only his extraordinary talent but also a new paradigm for music and its effects on listeners and musicians alike. Before Mozart, Western art music had two fundamental purposes: to proclaim the glory of God in His churches and to provide musical decoration for the powerful in their courts and homes. As Mozart’s influence grew, his compositions began to assume a larger role in intellectual life. By the time of the French Revolution, music had increasingly become a reflection of the composer’s self-conscious mind, rather than a celebration of God or patron.

The confluence between musical aesthetics and the philosophical con- cept of self-consciousness manifests itself as a distinctly Romantic phe- nomenon in Holderlin’s¨ poetry and prose, the subject of the second chapter, “Holderlin’s¨ Deutscher Gesang and the Music of Poetic Self-Consciousness.” Holderlin¨ remains an enigmatic figure for both philosophy and poetry, having published little during his lifetime, mainly because he spent his last forty years almost completely incapacitated by madness. His contributions to philosophy have only recently come to light in scholarship by Warmin- ski and Henrich, and his fragmentary essays on poetry, especially “Wechsel der Tone,”¨ remain little understood. I will argue that this essay, the title of which can be translated as “Changing of Tones,” or “Modulation,” pro- poses a theory of poetry based on musical form, and that aspects of this theory led to specific metrical and thematic decisions in the composition of many of his poems, including “Dichterberuf,” “Patmos,” “Wie wenn

.” and “Brod und Wein.” For Holderlin,¨ music becomes a

am Feiertage

crucial site for mediation between the theory and practice of poetry, as well as between Greece and Hesperia, and between the divine and the human. These binary oppositions consistently return to issues of temporality and memory, revealing a close connection between Holderlin’s¨ theory of poetic consciousness and musical form. Similarly, the temporal and teleological aspects of music play a surpris- ingly important role in Hegel’s philosophy. In the third chapter, “Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material,” I examine how the relatively unexplored chapter on music in the Lectures on Aesthetics

Preface: The Sound and the Spirit xv

contains a subtle yet crucial link between self-consciousness and sensory apprehension through the material of sound. In addition, the cultural and historical context of the music chapter indicates that Hegel was respond- ing to contemporaneous statements on the importance of music by E. T. A. Hoffmann, among others. Far from being the isolated comments of an ama- teur (as Hegel uncharacteristically calls himself), the music chapter con- tains the traces of a continuing and influential discussion of the relevance

of music to philosophy. This discussion, in one form or another, even reached Wordsworth, who far preferred the sounds of nature to those of concert hall. Nevertheless, his views of music have suffered surprising neglect, despite their importance at significant moments in both his prose and his poetry. In the fourth chapter, “Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry,” I investigate his use of metaphors of music in The Prelude, “On the Power of Sound,” and other poems, as a reflection of his attitude toward poetic form and metrical structure and the relationship between natural and communicative sound. Like Hegel, Wordsworth employed music as a structural metaphor for the dialectical workings of the mind and the differentiation between poetic and natural sound. Unlike Hegel, he continued to hear music in natural sound, complementing the visionary with the musical in his construction of the imagination. Finally, this account of the relationship between self-consciousness and music requires an investigation of the extent of its manifestation in actual musical composition. In the fifth chapter, “Beethoven and Musical Self- Consciousness,” I examine the basis for the attitudes toward music demon- strated in the previous chapters and determine the relationship between actual musical practice and philosophers’ and poets’ ideas of it. Among the most important issues is the question of meaning in absolute music. Does

a work of instrumental music, such as a symphony or a string quartet, have

a demonstrable, extra-musical meaning? I argue that it does and that the

late works of Beethoven, especially String Quartet No. 13 in B major, op. 130/133, contain clear, audible, and provable indications of self-conscious reflection in musical form. The consequences of these interpretations become the subject of the afterword, “The Persistence of Sound.” The concept of self-consciousness, the category of the aesthetic, and actual manifestations of aesthetically ordered sound in Romantic poetry and music, I argue, are parts of a continuous matrix of understanding that emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century and persist at the turn of the twenty-first. Above all, self- consciousness and music developed at this moment in the history of ideas


Preface: The Sound and the Spirit

and artistic practice as mirror images of the dialectical process of becom- ing an autonomous being. Moreover, they depend on each other, and we, even in this skeptical era, depend on them for a remarkable number of fundamental principles. Although we may repeatedly call into question the conditions and circumstances that brought these ideas into being, few composers, poets, or artists of any kind create without an idea that they are somehow, to some degree, constructing something of themselves into their work. Similarly, even the most socially conscious participants in civic life acknowledge that on some level, the “we” of any movement begins with the recognition of an “I.” That self can only come to consciousness through an articulate voice, and the “sound of what is secret,” as Wallace Stevens says, is the sound of each individual voice, saying “I am I” to each of us. It is a sound that keeps speaking, and when it speaks, we hear the music of Beethoven.

chapter 1

Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

How can I say I! without self-consciousness?

– Friedrich Holderlin,¨

“Judgment and Being”

No other philosophical concept so clearly defines the end of the Enlighten- ment and the beginning of Romanticism as self-consciousness, the process by which the self becomes aware of its status as a thinking, knowing entity, and the precondition, according to the Idealists and Romantics, for all knowledge. In a limited sense, the concept goes much farther back into the history of philosophy, to Plato or even Parmenides, and one could even make a case for the presence of poetic or musical self-consciousness in the Homeric epics. However, by the seventeenth century, Descartes appeared to have made the definitive statement about self-consciousness with the cogito, the well-known “I think therefore I am” argument of the Meditations on First Philosophy. Enlightenment philosophical investigations after Descartes gen- erally turned outward, toward the systematic acquisition and organization of all possible knowledge about the world, following Newton’s and Leib- niz’s mathematical models of understanding, the alphabetical tendencies of Voltaire, Diderot, and the Philosophes, or the British empiricists’ distrust of metaphysics. Immanuel Kant, at the time an obscure professor at the University of Konigsberg,¨ returned to the problem with the Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 by focusing his considerable analytic power on knowledge itself and separating it into two central categories: a priori knowledge, that which is known prior to experience, and a posteriori knowledge, that which is known as a result of experience. From this extremely dense and arcane examination of a priori knowledge, Kant deduced that consciousness, as a necessary precondition for any cognition, began with the self-awareness of the subject: the “I” that thinks. In the same year – 1781 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, no longer con- tent with his position as the court composer to the prince-archbishop of Salzburg, asked to be released from the archbishop’s service while in Vienna.



Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

Mozart, at twenty-five no longer a child prodigy, soon acquired students, gave concerts, and wrote an opera and a symphony for both public perfor- mance and publication. For the next five years, Mozart would continue to write at an extraordinary rate, making a good living (contrary to legend) as a public performer of instrumental music, with revenues from sheet music publication as well as from commissions and performances. Kant’s publication of the first critique and Mozart’s release from the prince-archbishop’s service have no direct connection to each other, yet they represent the beginning of a new era. Soon, philosophers would follow Kant toward the creation of a renewed, more complex, and stronger version of the individual consciousness as a motivating force, generating a belief in the power of the self-conscious, independent mind that persists even in these modern and postmodern times. Following Kant, the Idealist philosophers, especially Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and Hegel, claimed self-consciousness as the center of their philosophical systems and the basis for all other knowledge; in different ways and to varying degrees, they also claimed that the self-conscious subject gives order to the world. Meanwhile, Beethoven, acutely aware of Mozart’s accomplishments, created a powerful persona of himself as composer-hero, leading to a form of self-consciousness in music. Holderlin¨ and Wordsworth also turned inward to their poetry, describing in deeply philosophical terms the poet’s vocation and position in history and developing a new self-consciousness in poetry. What connects these events, and can criticism articulate a meaningful and useful description of this connection? Marshall Brown’s answer to this question takes the same starting point, the role of consciousness in Kant and Mozart. According to Brown,

at every period in history a subterranean network of constraints governs the orga- nization of human thought. Different fields develop and change in parallel not because they affect one another but because the infrastructures of mental activity affect all of them. In this respect, the relationship of music and philosophy is no different from the relationship of literature and philosophy. The infrastructure is the precondition of thought and is by definition unconscious and unarticulated. Because it lies outside the limits of the individual disciplines, it cannot really be formulated within any of them. Hence arises the necessity of comparative study. 1

Brown’s recognition of the necessity of studies like this one is gratifying, as is his desire to examine the “intellectual infrastructures” of the eigh- teenth century without using political, economic, or social history as an ultimate cause. However, the mutual illumination he seeks between music and philosophy, and between music and literature, does not necessarily

Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment 3

require a concept of infrastructure, conceptual or otherwise. Rather, the relationships among music, philosophy, and literature, some direct, some

mediated, take place in historical time as part of an entire matrix of com- municative structures that is far from subterranean. These structures do not precondition the creation of philosophy, poetry, or music; they are the result of reciprocating relationships among these individual modes of discourse.

I intend, therefore, to explore the relationship between self-consciousness

and music in poetry, music, and philosophy as a series of exchanges in form, structure, material, and metaphor in the works of four central figures:

Holderlin,¨ Hegel, Wordsworth, and Beethoven. These exchanges all took

place in the early Romantic period, which I define (somewhat arbitrarily) as the years immediately following the publication of Kant’s critiques to the end of the first flourishing of Romanticism, that is, from about 1795, when Schelling, Holderlin,¨ and Hegel worked together on philosophical projects, to 1831, when Hegel died in Berlin. This time also spans virtually the entire productive lives of Holderlin,¨ Wordsworth, and Beethoven, as well as nearly all the major English Romantic poets, Schubert, Schopenhauer, and a number of other luminaries. I choose these four as the subject of close examination because they had a lasting and widespread effect on culture and because their works so clearly demonstrate the various manifestations of self-consciousness.

I use the word “manifestation” cautiously, because the concept of self-

consciousness already contains a complex relationship between abstract idea and concrete actualization. Self-consciousness, as a philosophical con- cept, begins with the recognition of the boundary between the self and the nonself, and recognition of the subject as an active force in the world, thereby already inscribing the issue of interiority and exteriority in its own definition. During that progression, the self must confront the limits of its domain, the point at which pure self-consciousness ends and consciousness of an other – or an external world – begins. That external element must have material substance, be real, not imagined, so that the self can recognize it as something other than mere thought. This moment, in which the self recognizes its own existence through juxtaposition with the material non- self, constitutes an aesthetic moment, a crucial and highly debated concept in Idealist epistemology. I argue that for the Romantics, the category of the aesthetic emerges after pure sensation but before cognition and defines the conceptual space necessary for Romantic theories of absolute music (music without any descriptive program); consequently, absolute music became the paradigmatic art of the aesthetic itself.


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

Before I begin exploring the connections between self-consciousness, aesthetics, and music, I must acknowledge some of the difficulties and limitations of comparative study. Besides the obvious problem of the over- lapping and often misleading terminology in different fields of humanistic study (the word “absolute,” for instance, has distinct yet related meanings in musicology and philosophy), the various methodologies for each field depend on long-standing traditions of interpretation that do not transfer easily, if at all, from one field to another. As Scott Burnham has amply demonstrated in his work on Beethoven, 2 we do not hear a Beethoven symphony without also hearing, directly or indirectly, a two-hundred-year tradition of interpretation of that symphony. Likewise, the aggregate image of what commentators from Marx to Kojeve` to Lukacs to Adorno have said about Hegel inevitably looms over any encounter with his texts, as do the corresponding images of Holderlin¨ and Wordsworth created by their inter- preters. These traditions form an inevitable part of our understanding, yet they have a tendency to limit our discourse to clearly defined areas. Any comparative study, therefore, must demonstrate a heightened awareness of both these disciplinary boundaries and interpretive traditions and develop, to some extent, a common critical language. Fortunately, this language already exists in the complex critical texts by some important participants in Romantic intellectual life, including the prose works of H olderlin,¨ the music criticism of E. T. A. Hoffmann and A. B. Marx, and the aesthetic writings of Hegel. My objective is to add to our understanding of these works the critical terms and ideas held by their creators and their contemporaries and to describe how these ideas con- tinue to affect our understanding of early Romanticism. Moreover, almost everyone discussed these matters openly and frequently, rarely denying themselves the pleasure of a debate on any of these matters on the grounds of too little expertise. An accurate picture of the circumstances in which a particular work of music, poetry, or philosophy originated must there- fore take into account the prevalence of these interdisciplinary discussions in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century life. Certainly, as Harold Bloom, among many others, has said, poetry begets poetry, music begets music, and philosophy begets philosophy; the fifth chapter of this study in particular investigates how Beethoven’s awareness of his position within Viennese classicism influenced the formal structure of his late works. Artistic creations that philosophers read, see, and hear often contain the conceptual structures that they make explicit in their essays and lectures. Hegel’s philosophy, as I intend to show, depends in crucial moments on a central metaphor of music, as does Holderlin’s¨ poetry. Understanding how

Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 5

this metaphor works will involve finding out what music really was, and what people thought it was, at the time this metaphor came into currency. The relationship between Idealist philosophy and Romantic art therefore does not devolve into a series of cause-and-effect sequences of influence; rather, it forms a dialectical matrix of reciprocation between abstract ideas and concrete works. Although the relationship I describe between self-consciousness and music appears most prominently during the early Romantic era, a brief examination of the currents in philosophy and music of the late Enlight- enment helps explain the sudden introspective turn evident in virtually every field of cultural activity in the early Romantic period. In particular, Kant’s development of a consistent philosophical system connecting self- consciousness to aesthetics began the Idealist school at almost the same moment that Mozart’s extraordinary genius and curiously ambivalent atti- tude toward Enlightenment principles led to sweeping changes in musical culture. These separate developments in philosophy and music converged on a common set of problems concerning the relationship between the self and music that would later become extraordinarily important in Romantic aesthetics. I begin with Kant, whose epistemological developments con- tinue to reverberate through both philosophy and criticism; I then describe how his immediate followers, Fichte, Schiller, and Schelling, continued on the path toward Idealism. Finally, I discuss, extremely briefly, the profound changes Mozart brought to Enlightenment music aesthetics and their rela- tion of Idealism.

kant, self-consciousness, and aesthetics

As Andrew Brook has astutely pointed out, Kant did not articulate a spe- cific position with regard to the two concepts that later achieved central importance in Idealist philosophy, Bewußtsein and Selbstbewußtsein, “con- sciousness” and “self-consciousness” and may have even regarded them as unproblematic. 3 If he did, he was clearly mistaken – no other Kantian con- cept, not even the categorical imperative, has created as much continuing discussion, with many disputes and few resolutions. However, Kant more probably considered the problem of self-consciousness secondary to his greatest concern: the transcendental deduction, Kant’s proof of the means by which the mind categorizes knowledge. Kant found this so difficult to describe that he entirely rewrote his explanation of it for the second edi- tion of the Critique of Pure Reason. Although Kant claims in the preface to the second edition that the revised version merely clarifies the principles


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

outlined in the first edition, both versions are routinely reprinted and studied.

Briefly, Kant’s epistemological position is as follows. A priori knowledge enables the subject to acquire the necessary conceptual structure to gain its counterpart: a posteriori knowledge. No amount of internal thought can determine the weather outside as much as a glance out the window can, nor can even the deepest thought probe the activities and qualities of things the mind itself did not invent without experience of them, yet understanding what one sees requires a preexisting ability to categorize those perceptions.

A posteriori knowledge therefore results from the interaction of the mind

and sensory information, allowing the subject to understand, manipulate, categorize, and describe the world. From this distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge, one can deduce the existence of natural facul- ties, a set of innate abilities to categorize perceptions into classes, such as quantity, shape, and size. The proof of the existence of these a priori cate-

gories is a deduction, because it follows from a series of logical propositions,

as opposed to an induction, which would be inferred from a set of concrete

data. Likewise, this deduction is transcendental because of the common- ality of human experience; the fact that all people make these categorical distinctions the same way demonstrates that the categories are universal. Kant’s version of the subject (the “I that thinks”), which possesses these faculties and combines perceptions into cognitions, receives several over- lapping names, including “the synthetic unity of apperception.” A concise

explanation of the term appears in the second edition of the first critique,

in §17 of the Transcendental Logic:

The supreme principle for the possibility of all intuition in reference to understand- ing is that everything manifold in intuition is subject to conditions of the original

They are subject to [this] principle insofar as

they must be capable of being combined in one consciousness. For without that combination, nothing can be thought or cognized through such presentations, because the given presentations do then not have in common the act of appercep- tion, I think, and thus would not be collated in one self-consciousness. 4

synthetic unity of

Kant makes several subtle distinctions in this paragraph, mainly in response

to Hume’s devastating claim that the subject is merely a convenient fiction:

the name given to a bundle of nerves. First, Kant distinguishes mere empir- ical apperception, the singular experience of an individual on realizing that he or she exists and is conscious of something, from transcendental apperception, the knowledge that this apperception exists over time and for everyone. Kant then determines the existence of the transcendental

Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 7

aesthetic, the knowledge that perceptions occur and are organized accord- ing to a priori categories. Both apperception (intuitive awareness of the self) and perception (what one receives as a result of the cognitive faculties) combine in the intuition of a singular self-consciousness, which collates (in German zusammenfassen, which also means “collect”) apperception and perception into a full, conscious knowledge of the self and its relation to the external world. This ability to combine makes self-consciousness a synthetic unity, that is, an understanding made from the synthesis of perception and apperception. As Brook explains, Kant’s transcendental deduction divides the pro- cess of making the transcendental deduction into three distinct elements:

encountering the object of one’s perception, recognizing the experience of perceiving, and becoming aware of the self as an entity independent from the experience of a particular perception. Brook refers to the aware- ness of the last element as “apperceptive self-awareness,” to distinguish it from empirical self-awareness, the awareness of the self derived from the mere consciousness of a singular experience. In other words, appercep- tive self-awareness represents the continuous self-knowledge of the subject over time, whereas empirical self-awareness merely allows the subject to intuit its existence at a particular moment through a particular experience. 5 Kant’s description of the synthetic unity of apperception therefore does not mean that self-consciousness merely arranges the presentations given to it by several faculties (as Hume claims); it cognizes those presentations into knowledge about them, and from this acquisition of knowledge over time, it deduces a continuous self. This description of self-consciousness has greater efficacy than Des- cartes’s and Hume’s previous versions. It clarifies the relation between objects of perception and the conscious subject by means of a mediat- ing term, Vorstellungen, or “presentations,” thereby separating the physical problems of sensation (how sensory information is acquired, the material characteristics of objects, etc.) from the metaphysical problems of percep- tion, cognition, and the self. Knowledge about an object in this system therefore contains three elements: the sensory encounter with an object, the formation of a presentation of that object by means of the faculties, and the recognition of that presentation by the conscious self. The object, or “thing-in-itself,” becomes, in a strict sense, unknowable; we can only know about things through presentations, which are necessarily different from the things themselves. What are the consequences of this idea for the understanding of art? In the first critique, Kant has relatively little to say about it, being primarily


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

concerned with perceptions in general and the field of epistemology as a whole. Nevertheless, a possible starting point for Kant’s third critique emerges in a footnote to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason. Here, Kant finds fault with the use of the word “aesthetics” to mean the philosophical investigation of the principles of art:

The Germans are the only people who have come to use the word aesthetic[s] to designate what others call the critique of taste. They are doing so on the basis of a false hope conceived by that superb analyst, Baumgarten: he hoped to bring our

critical judging of the beautiful under rational principles, and to raise the rules for such judging to the level of a science. Yet that endeavor is futile. For, as regards their principle sources, those rules or criteria are merely empirical. Hence, they

can never serve as determinate a priori

follow either of two alternatives. One of these is to let this new name aesthetic[s]

become extinct again, and to reserve the name aesthetic for the doctrine that is

The other alternative would be for the new aesthetic[s] to share

Because of this it is advisable to


the name with speculative philosophy; we would then take the name partly in its transcendental sense, and partly in the psychological meaning. 6

Kant refers to Alexander Baumgarten’s Aesthetica, and objects to his empir- ical approach for determining the principles of art because its method of categorization is arbitrary. Kant claims that by proceeding from empirical,

rather than a priori, principles, Baumgarten has used a limited data set and drawn conclusions inductively, resulting in an inherently weak system. He also perceives a terminological problem in Baumgarten’s work. By using the


word Asthetik to signify the principles governing art, Baumgarten narrows the meaning of the word considerably; for Kant, it should mean some- thing more like “sensibility.” Here, Kant wants to restore that meaning to the extent that he can use the term to describe raw, precognitive sensory information. However, these overlapping meanings of the word “aesthetic” reveal the dilemma that Kant attempts to resolve in the third critique. Observations of aesthetic objects, like observations of any other object, result in presen- tations, making aesthetics (in the artistic rather than the general sense) into the relation between the observing subject and the presentations of aesthetic objects rather than the relation between the subject and the objects them- selves. However, aesthetic objects defy, on certain levels, the processes of identification and categorization Kant had assumed to be true of objects in general in the first critique: aesthetic objects resist assimilation to a deter- mined set of relations because the experience of the aesthetic, by definition, begins and ends with the initial sensation caused by these objects. In other words, as aesthetic objects rather than objects of use, the normal set of

Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 9

relations is somehow suspended or diverted, remaining in the area of pure sensibility, that is, the area of the aesthetic in Kant’s original sense. Kant recognized the need to describe the consequences of his episte- mological theories in more detail, first publishing the Critique of Practical Reason in 1786 to establish an a priori system of ethics and completing the series with the Critique of Judgment in 1790. In the Critique of Judgment, also known as the third critique, Kant addresses the problem of aesthetics in detail by dividing the overall faculty of judgment into two types: aesthetic and teleological. Aesthetic judgment enables us to experience the beauti- ful and the sublime in art; teleological judgment enables us to perceive the purposeful design of nature. Aesthetic objects, in Kant’s well-known words, are “purposeful without purpose,” revealing intention in design, yet remaining without practical utility, whereas nature’s objects serve particular functions within God’s plan for the universe. The point of this distinction between artificial and natural objects is to distinguish the conceptual basis for artistic beauty from the enjoyment of natural beauty, thereby placing artistic beauty clearly within the human sphere and giving us hope of dis- covering its principles. According to the preface of the Critique of Judgment, the faculty of judgment, like reason and ethics, should be founded on a priori principles and bridges the gap between understanding (pure reason) and desire (practical reason), the areas of mental activity described the first two critiques. 7 In other words, judgment must be founded on principles that are neither learned by empirical means nor subjugated to some other faculty. Ultimately, we do not create judgments according to custom, nor do we create them because it is reasonable for us to do so in one way or another. We create judgments independently of reason or desire or else we create them falsely, that is, we substitute conclusions we have reached by other methods for true judgments. To describe these true judgments in the third critique, Kant uses the


adjective form of the word Asthetik, asthetische¨

mean judgments pertaining to aesthetic objects, especially in the section titled “Deduktion der reinen asthetischen¨ Urteile,” “Deduction of Pure

Aesthetic Judgment.” 8 Although Kant’s reinstatement of the meaning of

, in Baumgarten’s sense, to


Asthetik that he intended to dismiss, or at least qualify, in the Critique of

Pure Reason may seem like a reversal of his position on the term’s meaning, this section of the third critique actually represents a new direction in his thought. His use of the word combines both meanings and places the category of aesthetic judgment in a privileged area before cognition to reconcile the apparent contradiction between the universality of aesthetic judgment, that is, the general agreement on what is beautiful, with the


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

impossibility of proving aesthetic judgments by means of deduction from the a priori principles in the first critique. This contradiction justifies the deduction of a separate, a priori faculty of judgment:

But a feeling of pleasure (or displeasure) and of satisfaction can be combined with a perception, which accompanies the representation of the object and serves in place of its predicate; thus, an aesthetic judgment, which is not a cognitive judgment, can originate. Such a judgment, if it is not a mere judgment of feeling but a formal judgment of reflection, in which everyone senses this satisfaction to be necessary, must have an a priori principle as its basis, which in any case may be a merely subjective principle (if an objective principle is impossible for judgments of this kind), but also as such requires a deduction, so that we may understand how an aesthetic judgment could make a claim of necessity. 9

At the center of this difficult passage lies the heart of Kant’s argument for

a separate faculty of aesthetic judgment: judgments that are both objective

(in the sense of being universally accepted) and subjective (in the sense of being empirically unprovable) must originate in some faculty between the necessity of logic and the freedom of the individual. If aesthetic judgments were entirely objective, their creation would be available to examination by reason; if they were entirely a matter of individual freedom, they would be idiosyncratic and completely dependent on individual preferences. Neither is the case; thus, we possess a separate, a priori faculty of judgment. Aesthetic judgment occupies a position somewhere between a priori and

a posteriori knowledge, as both the result of experience with the external

world and part of an innate faculty. An encounter with an aesthetic object does not involve the sheer inventions of the perceiver’s mind but a presen- tation of something external to it, the result of an actual experience. On the other hand, the aesthetic object does not perform any function for the perceiver other than merely to be perceived; the perceiver does not cate- gorize it further in terms of function. Because works of fine art do not do anything except exist as objects of perception, their presentations do not progress further into analysis by the faculties for qualities unrelated to the perception already experienced. When looking at a painting, for instance,

we do not think about how much it weighs, whether we can lift it by our- selves, whether it will fit on the wall over the couch, and so on as part of our aesthetic contemplation of the painting – examining it for practical purposes, or even for physical characteristics, such as weight or dimension, unrelated to its appearance as a painting remains superfluous to its role as an aesthetic object. As art, we judge the painting in terms of its beauty, and nothing else.

Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 11

This conclusion, that aesthetic judgments are made a priori, seems almost contradictory. A priori concepts are by definition theoretical, yet the idea of an aesthetic object depends on an encounter with a real object. In this area, according to Jacques Derrida, “we are plunging into a place that is neither theoretical nor practical or else both theoretical and practical.” 10 This place, the category of the aesthetic, rests on the crucial distinction between the idea of beauty as something inherent in the object and the idea of aesthetic judgment as a separate category of thought having to do with the presentation (Vorstellung) of the object, rather than with the object itself. Frances Ferguson summarizes the importance of this distinction succinctly:

Aesthetic objects are not in and of themselves different from objects of cognition; the aesthetic domain contains no object that cannot be shared, as material, with the understanding or the reason. Rather, aesthetic objects are constituted not merely by a shift from seeing them in terms of properties to seeing them in terms of formal functions. It is that this formality can appear as an imitation of empirical objects, the empty or superfluous imitation of the look of function. 11

The element of the aesthetic inheres in the object itself only to the degree that it contains the formal elements of an aesthetic object; whether it counts as an aesthetic object depends entirely on what faculty the conscious sub- ject brings to bear on the presentation, or image, it causes. In addition, by describing imitation as a mere subclass of the overall formal structure of beauty, Kant encompasses both mimesis (the deliberate imitation of nature in art) and natural beauty (the unintentional imitation of art in nature) without compromising his overall position. This formalist conception of art thereby releases the aesthetic object from its mimetic function – the object does not necessarily imitate anything but instead fulfills a set of formal criteria for beauty. By moving away from mimesis and toward for- malism, Kant can include both the beautiful, the property of objects that provide satisfaction without fulfilling a specific purpose, and the sublime, the property of objects that overwhelm the senses or the understanding in his system, because the experience of the aesthetic has been relieved of the burden of comprehending the object as well. This broad, formalist conception of the aesthetic translates into the prac- tice of individual art forms with some difficulty. For the visual arts, a renewed focus on the experience of vision rather than the reality of appear- ance becomes possible, as many critics have noted. However, what Kant himself has to say about music reveals surprisingly little of importance and is somewhat disappointing. Kant’s problem with music lies in the over- whelmingly visual orientation of his idea of the aesthetic object. To cite


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

one of many examples, the German word for “representation,” Vorstellung, also means “image,” and it is often translated that way, even in its specialized Kantian context. In addition, it comes from the reflexive verb sich vorstellen, “to imagine,” or, more literally, “to place in front of oneself.” These visual connotations create a number of problems for Kant when applied to music, and the dominance of visual metaphors may be a central reason that music, in Kant’s estimation, did not hold first rank among the arts. Like Hegel more than thirty years later, Kant reserved that position for poetry because it could express both abstract concepts and concrete images. Music, for Kant, is merely a decorative art, a poor imitation of vague emotional con- tent. In addition, music lacks specificity in its concepts and is therefore an “art of the beautiful play of emotions”:

The arts of the beautiful play of the emotions (which are stimulated from without), and must be likewise universally communicated, cannot be anything other than the proportion of the different levels of mood (tension) of the sense to which the emotion belongs, that is which concerns the tone itself; and in this far-reaching sense of the word, they can be divided into the artistic play of the emotions of hearing and of sight, that is, music and the art of color. 12

Edward Lippmann’s response to Kant on music balances his recognition of its obvious problems with an acknowledgment of the impact of Kant’s overall aesthetic theory on music as a whole:

Imitation [for Kant] plays a role that is more essential than expression, for music imitates the tonal modulation of speech. On the other hand, Kant’s view of the play of tonal sensations as a condition for musical beauty suggests a formalist

ingredient of aesthetics that belongs to the own terms, as absolute rather than

any event found to be inadequate to the nature of the art, for it became increasingly obvious with every year that passed that instrumental music was a fine art in its own right and that its beauty was not lessened by pleasure in tonal sonority but rather

that both its beauty and its significance were deepened by their sensuous element. The gradual growth of this awareness is a fascinating chapter in the history of aesthetic consciousness; there is no doubt that the low esteem in which Kant held instrumental music had a positive value – because of its inadequacy – in bringing musical aesthetics to fruition. 13

The central problem with Kant’s account lies in his failure to consider the disparity between the technical study of musical form (the mathematical ratios between intervals, harmony, counterpoint, and meter) and its emo- tional effect. To explain this important dilemma in eighteenth-century music aesthetics, Kant must resort to an analogy with color that Rousseau had already superseded. 14 In addition, Kant fails to explain how music can

Kant conceives music on its

was in

Kant’s conception of music

Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 13

affect the emotions without representing an object of emotional value to the listener; colors in themselves may vary from the drab to the bright, but they do not carry the emotional power of a musical composition or, for that matter, a finished painting. Finally, Kant admits that music cannot be categorized and differentiated by human perception but must be perceived as a single entity. As Kant himself points out, no one can count vibra- tions per second, nor can many people identify keys and individual notes as they listen, yet almost everyone who listens to music claims to under- stand it. Moreover, Carl Dahlhaus has observed that Kant’s understanding of music contains two significant and glaring contradictions, even on Kantian terms. Even as Kant creates a formalist aesthetics for art in general, he rel- egates music to one of the formless “agreeable” arts, as opposed to the superior, formal “beautiful” arts. Kant views music solely in its mathemati- cal, or harmonic aspect, despite the obvious fact that music also has a rhyth- mic and metrical dimension. Why not, Dahlhaus asks, create an aesthetics of music in accordance with the transcendental aesthetic in the Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant clearly explains that representations must be continuous over time? 15 Peter Kivy asks similar questions in an essay aptly titled “Kant and the Affektenlehre: What He Said, and What I Wish He Said,” adding somewhat wistfully:

It would have been so much more elegant and plausible for Kant to have argued that we recognize emotions as properties of musical form and structure, with the aesthetic ideas following quite naturally and directly from that recognition. 16

Kant, for reasons that neither Kivy nor I can adequately explain, chose instead to maintain a theory of music more consistent with past theories than with his own innovations in aesthetics. Ignorance of the workings of music may have played a role, but in my judgment, the limitations of human understanding and experience, even for someone of Kant’s enor- mous intellect, provide as plausible an explanation as we are likely to find. Nevertheless, different versions of a better-informed and more consistent aesthetics of music based on Kant’s overall aesthetic program and rooted in formalism would emerge in the next few years, as Lippmann implies in the earlier citation. Until the late Enlightenment, treatises on music theory generally followed either extremely practical or nearly theological lines of reasoning, consisting of either technical information about composition for practicing composers or vague ideas of correspondence between music, numerology, emotion, and the harmony of the spheres. With Kant, the formalist conception of aesthetics in general provided both philosophers


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

and composers with an idea of art that did not require specific content but only beautiful form, thereby replacing mimesis with formalism as the primary concept of beauty. The vagueness with which music allegedly portrayed emotion could be forgotten and replaced by an appreciation for the range and variety of formal beauty in music, especially when played by instruments alone. Thus, Kant had created the necessary conditions for three essential ele- ments of early Romanticism: the turn toward self-consciousness, the eleva- tion of the category of the aesthetic, and the formalist conception of artistic beauty. All three elements are inextricably linked through Kant’s critiques; the final element would contribute to new developments in music aesthet- ics that Kant clearly had not anticipated. Likewise, new investigations of self-consciousness would carry Kant’s ideas further than he is likely to have considered possible.

fichte, schiller, schelling, and the systemprogramm fragment: the origins of romantic self-consciousness

Kant’s critiques had an immediate and widespread effect on philosophical projects throughout Europe, provoking a broad range of ethical, philosoph- ical, and aesthetic programs. For the group of Kant’s followers gathered in Jena during the late 1790s, which included Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, Holderlin,¨ and Hegel, the first step in the creation of a Kantian system was to remedy Kant’s failure to describe the precise nature of the subject in the process of self-consciousness. Kant had declared the ultimate com- prehension of self-consciousness, as the thing-in-itself, beyond the bounds of human understanding; his only explanation of it, beyond deducing its existence, was that it exists out of spontaneity. The subjective self cannot be conscious of anything before it becomes conscious of itself, that is, self- conscious, yet the act of becoming conscious of itself requires it to have already constituted itself as the object of its consciousness, resulting in a paradox. Likewise, its ontological status as the subject comes into question the moment it becomes objectified by this consciousness – a subject is not a subject when it has become an object. The subject must gain both knowl- edge of itself and consciousness of its own being without changing its essen- tial nature. In other words, there is no subject without self-consciousness, yet the presupposition of self-consciousness compromises the ontological status of the subject – if it is an object of knowledge, even for itself, then it can no longer be a pure subject. On the other hand, if the subject exists only as a pure “spontaneity,” then it cannot become an object of knowledge,

Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment 15

because it cannot be described according to a rational system of causes and origins, but only by feeling. Fichte, as Dieter Henrich 17 and Robert Pippin, among others, have established, resolves this dilemma by altering the concept of subject from that of an entity to that of an activity, or Tathandlung, a “deed-action.” Pippin’s brief summary of this development correctly emphasizes Fichte’s commitment to the concept of the Tathandlung and the Idealist enterprise:

“The intellect [according to Fichte], for idealism, is an act and absolutely nothing more; we should not even call it an active something, for this expression refers to something subsistent in which activity inheres.” 18 The problem with Kant’s account of subjectivity and self-consciousness is not that he describes the process incorrectly, but that by simply naming self- consciousness as a particular element in the process of cognition, rather than an action, he obscures its true nature by objectifying it. Separating self-consciousness from consciousness is like separating a wave from the water that constitutes it; it is mistaking an organized activity (an activ- ity both complete and continuing, both Tat and Handlung) for a discrete object in itself. Furthermore, Fichte claims that consciousness and self- consciousness, as aspects of essentially the same ich, are simply self-positing and should be defined as such. 19 However, if the self-conscious subject is an activity, rather than an object, how does this activity manifest itself, and is the physical subject sepa- rate from the metaphysical subject? According to Gunther¨ Zoller,¨ Fichte’s concept of the subject does not have a material existence, because “the intellectual acts” of self-positing “are not to be thought of as empirical- psychological events but as the structural conditions that govern all mental life.” 20 The activity of self-positing that generates self-consciousness there- fore has no empirical preconditions and creates itself absolutely as intellec- tual intuition. To manifest itself, the metaphysical self therefore requires a material object against which it can juxtapose its status as the subject. Fichte describes the activity of self-consciousness as a thinking-in-opposition:

It [the “I”] would think of itself in opposition to an external object. It does not notice as the thinker [das Denkende] of the object that it is the thinker of the object, but disappears in the object. However, it easily and clearly finds that the thinker and what is thought [das Gedachte] are different.

They are differentiated by means of the following: in the presentation [Vorstellung] of my “I,” the thinker and what is thought are one and the same – in the concept of the “I.” I am the thinker and what is thought. In the other case, the act goes outside of me; in this case the act goes back onto myself. 21


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

Two central insights in this passage provide the basis for the next step toward the Idealist reconfiguration of self-consciousness. First, the self, for

Fichte, posits itself intuitively, yet to complete the process of self-creation, it must differentiate itself in the epistemological process; it perceives an object, realizes that in perceiving it is thinking, and notices that it does the thinking and that the object does not, thus distinguishing the presentation of the self from the presentation of the nonself, the object. Self-consciousness has therefore been redefined as a continuous process of opposition and sublation, rather than a state or an entity, an insight Hegel will later expand into the long journey of the self in The Phenomenology of Spirit. Second, self- consciousness arises through an observable characteristic of the thinking self but only through negation – it is defined by what the presentation of the external object does not do (that is, think) and by the observation that the self is distinct from the external object, now called the “not-I.” Fichte’s solution to the problem of self-consciousness therefore depends on continuously renewing the moment of aesthetic judgment in Kant’s Critique of Judgment through opposition, or entgegensetzen, positing by juxtaposition. The moment of encounter with a material object also took on extraordi- nary importance for another member of the Jena group, Friedrich Schiller, but in a different way. Immediately following Fichte’s Wissenschaftlehre


in 1795, Schiller published On Aesthetic Education ( Uber die aesthetische Erziehung des Menschen), which outlines a radical concept of moral and intellectual development through encounters with fine art. For Schiller, “art is the daughter of freedom” 22 allowing the unification of desire and obliga- tion. In contrast to Fichte, whose initial objective in the Wissenschaftlehre was to extend Kant’s inquiry deeper into metaphysics and create what Zoller¨ aptly calls a “metaphilosophy of philosophical knowledge,” 23 Schiller uses the a priori principles outlined in Kant’s critiques, especially the second and third, as the basis for a practical course in spiritual development. In other words, rather than complete Kant’s critiques as a systematic philoso- phy, Schiller enacts them instead, overturning long-held principles of moral development and aesthetics and inviting his readers to join him in the search for a better, truer understanding of morality and beauty, unencumbered by the need for utility. Utility, of course, is what distinguishes useful objects from aesthetic objects in Kant’s third critique, a distinction that for Kant simply differen- tiated one category of understanding from another. Schiller, on the other hand, opposes the value placed on utility during the Enlightenment by identifying it as a powerful and negative moral force:

Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment


But at the present time material needs reign supreme and bend a degraded humanity

beneath their tyrannical yoke. Utility is the great idol of our age, to which all powers

are in thrall and to which all talent must pay

inquiry itself is wresting from the imagination one province after another, and the frontiers of art contract the more the boundaries of science expand. 24

The spirit of philosophical

Freedom, for Schiller, begins with the freedom of the imagination (Einbil- dung), the internal capacity of humans to represent things to themselves without reference to the external world. As concrete representations of the imagination, artworks set the mind free and as such are reflections of the mind rather than imitations of anything external to it. By making aesthetics prior to practical reason, Schiller essentially reverses the order of the sec- ond and third critiques, creating a concept of moral choice dependent on freedom (as Kant does in the second critique) but accessible only through artistic beauty, stating explicitly that “it is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom.” 25 Schiller is careful to distinguish this broader concept of the imagination, Einbildung, from Vorstellung, because of its ety- mological relation to Bildung, the development of character made possible by this program of aesthetic education. 26 Schiller’s declaration of beauty as the ultimate principle also strength- ens the formalist claims of Kant’s third critique considerably and enables Schiller to develop his own theories of beauty even further. Abandoning mimetic theories altogether, Schiller develops the tripartite concept of the Spieltrieb, or play drive, which is the combination of the Formtrieb, or form drive, and the Stofftrieb, or material drive. 27 Beauty, therefore, embodies the freedom of play in the formal configuration of actual material and pro- vides aesthetic satisfaction through the resolution of two opposing forces:

material reality and formal necessity. The balance between the material and the formal varies with the par- ticular material of each individual art, thereby creating a hierarchy among them; Schiller lists the arts according to the level on which each engages its formal and material elements. In contrast to Kant’s view of the individual arts, music holds an especially honored position here:

Music, at its most sublime, must become sheer form and affect us with the serene power of antiquity. The plastic arts, at their most perfect, must become music and move us by the immediacy of their sensuous presence. Poetry, when most fully developed, must grip us powerfully as music does, but at the same time, like the plastic arts, surround us with serene clarity. This, precisely, is the mark of perfect style in each and every art: that it is able to remove the specific limitations of the art in question without thereby destroying its specific qualities and through a wise use of its individual peculiarities, is able to confer upon it a more general character. 28


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

Schiller’s idea of “perfect style” does not mean that a particular work of art must be absolutely perfect but that a fully realized work may transcend its material nature. When fully realized, music becomes “sheer form,” rather than an imitation of emotion or any other content. Other art forms, in turn, must transcend the limitations of their specific material nature, approach- ing the near perfect formality of music while maintaining a connection to the sensuous material of each particular art form. In this respect, Schiller has departed completely from Kant’s view of music as the play of the emotions, claiming instead that emotional response to music is not due to deliber- ate manipulation by the composer or performer but to the recognition of formal beauty by the listener. 29 The music itself represents the composer’s and performer’s na¨ıve understanding of formal beauty, whereas its effect represents the listener’s sentimental response, just as Greek sculpture repre- sents the na¨ıve understanding of its creators, whereas its effect on modern viewers also represents a sentimental response. To some degree, Fichte and Schiller have been working toward the same synthesis of Kant’s three critiques from opposite directions. Fichte begins with the first critique (the development of self-consciousness through pure reason and a priori principles), combining it with elements of the second (the development of morals through the concept of freedom), yet does not fully address the issues of the third. Schiller begins with the third (aesthetics) to develop a program for enacting the second (ethics), yet for the most part sets aside the epistemological problems of the first. Nevertheless, the elements missing from Fichte’s and Schiller’s systems are implicit in their conclusions. Fichte’s version of self-consciousness depends on a moment of opposition between the self and the nonself virtually identical to the aesthetic moment in that it requires the presentation of a material object and precedes the formation of concepts about the object. Likewise, Schiller’s concept of education is the development of an individual self from the presentation of an aesthetic object and a similar juxtaposition of material object and ideal thought. Essentially, Fichte’s system lacks an aesthetic dimension; Schiller’s lacks an adequate theory of self-consciousness. Their disciples would attempt to make up for these deficiencies. For the younger followers of Fichte in Jena, philosophical and aesthetic concerns came to an unprecedented juncture. Even before Hegel’s arrival in Jena in 1801, Schelling, Hegel, and Holderlin,¨ the Tubinger¨ Freunde who had studied together at the Tubinger¨ Stift, came under Fichte’s influence and began an extraordinary collaboration. Dieter Henrich’s description of these formative years in the history of Idealism is both illuminating and succinct:

Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment


Early in 1795, little more than a year after the theological exam, Holderlin¨ for- mulated his own philosophical position at the University of Jena, under Fichte’s influence and simultaneously in opposition to him. This position brought Hegel, two years later and in a renewed conversation among friends in Frankfurt, to a decisive turning point in his thought. Schelling, who had entered the theological seminary at fifteen in 1790, had already begun his post-Kantian development with two publications before his exams, as the absolutely the first author, as he himself wrote to Hegel, to greet “Fichte, the new hero in the land of truth.” 30

The strength of this belief would lead Schelling to create a complete system

based on Kantian and Fichtean principles, with self-consciousness as its first principle. Although Schelling’s decision to place self-consciousness at the center of his system strongly resembles Fichte’s position, Schelling finds

a slightly different yet important solution to the problem of the objecti-

fication of the subject. Rather than use Fichte’s solution of introducing

a process of object-negation into the act of self-consciousness, Schelling

proposes a series of deductions leading to a concept of self-consciousness based on intellectual intuition. Schelling begins by observing that every consideration of the subject- object relation necessarily involves a concept of this relation that itself becomes an object, thus positing another subject removed from the first

subject-object relation. This subject, in turn, creates a subject-object rela- tion that posits yet another subject, until an absolute, unconditioned con- cept provides a standpoint for a subject that does not continue this process

ad infinitum. This concept, “the point

unmediated unity,” 31 is the subject-object, or self-consciousness. Through this concept of the absolute subject, Schelling manages to resolve a number of issues, including the relation between thought and identity:

Self-consciousness is an act, but through every act something takes place for us. – Every thought is an act, and every particular thought is a particular act; but through every thought a particular concept arises in us. The concept is nothing else but the act of thinking itself, and abstracted from this act it is nothing. Through the act of self-consciousness a concept must likewise arise for us, and that is nothing else but the concept of the I. In that I become an object through self-consciousness, the concept of the I arises for me, and conversely, the concept of the I is only the concept of the self becoming an object. 32

where subject and object are an

Schelling has escaped the inherent reflexivity of Fichte’s self-positing sub- ject by introducing the concept of the unconditioned, absolute act of self-consciousness as the irreducible subject-object. In this formulation, the circularity of self-objectification is resolved by describing the act of self-consciousness not as a reflexive self-recognition but as the continuous


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

process of becoming an object, the Selbstobjektwerden. Schelling’s version of the subject avoids objectification by never arriving at the point of having become an object; the act of self-consciousness is itself the continual but never fully realized act of attempting to objectify the self, a Selbstobjektwer- den, or “self-object-becoming” that never arrives at the point of being a Selbstobjektgeworden, or “self-object-become.” Because knowledge of the “I” is absolute, it must produce itself through intuition, what Schelling terms intuition itself, or intellectual intuition (intellektuelle Anschauung). Here, Schelling closely follows Kant and Fichte, for whom the concept represented the spontaneous generative activity of the self. For Kant, intellectual intuition represented the limits of determinate knowledge; for Fichte, it required a positing of an opposite. For Schelling, intellectual intuition has the same status in philosophy that the intuition of space does in geometry; all other concepts are merely limited cases of the absolute, intuitively postulated principle that makes a comprehensible system possible. 33 As Werner Marx points out, for Hegel and Fichte as well as for Schelling (at this point in his career), the dimension of intellectual intuition and self-consciousness is free, in the sense that it depends solely on the subject, and not on objects. 34 Despite the freedom of the subject, Schelling asserts an essential role for aesthetic objects in determining whether intellectual intuition is tran- scendental, that is, whether it is a necessary element of all cogntion that cannot be proved empiricially. To do so, he addresses not only the objects themselves but their origin – aesthetic objects, he observes, are not merely objects of a particular kind of perception but also deliberately created by artists for aesthetic apprehension. They therefore participate both in free- dom, because they result from an artist’s imagination, and in necessity, because they are physical objects. No material, no matter how skillfully worked by an artist, can avoid possessing charateristics that are simply inherent in the physical material itself – stone is always stone, and paint is always paint. For Schelling, this aspect of aesthetic objects represented an important connection between the metaphysical self and the physical reality of nature, the unity of conscious and unconscious elements. 35 Only art can provide evidence that intellectual intuition, the concept on which self-consciousness depends, is not mere self-deception:

How can it be posited without doubt, that it [intellectual intuition] is not founded on a merely subjective deception, if there is no general and universally acknowl- edged objectivity of that intuition? This generally acknowledged and undeniable

Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment


objectivity of intellectual intuition is art itself. Aesthetic intuition is thus precisely intellectual intuition [having] become objective. 36

For this reason, art is the “organon” of Schelling’s system, its unifying principle, as it is for Schiller, who claims that art heals the fracture between the opposing impulses of human nature. Art unites the purely subjective and metaphysical with the purely natural and physical and renders it in concrete material. Intellectual intuition and aesthetic intuition both depend on each other and mirror each other. We need aesthetic intuition to know that intellectual intuition adheres to the description Schelling gives it, and we need intellectual intuition to understand art as art. The connection between aesthetics and self-consciousness becomes even clearer in Schelling’s lectures on art, presented publicly in 1802 and 1803, then repeated in 1804 and 1805 at Jena, but only published in their entirety in 1859, five years after Schelling’s death. The overall theory of art explicated in the Philosophie der Kunst generally agrees with that of the System des transzendentalen Idealismus but contains far more detail about the individual arts. In particular, music plays an extraordinarily important role with regard to his theory of self-consciousness:

The necessary form of music is succession, for time is regarded as the general form of the imagination of the infinite in the finite, in so far as it is abstracted from the real. The principle of time in the subject is self-consciousness, which is precisely the imagination of the unity of consciousness into multiplicity in the ideal. From this we can grasp the close relationship of the sense of hearing in general, and of music and speech in particular, with self-consciousness. – We can also understand provisionally, until we have indicated a still higher meaning, the arithmetic side of music. 37

Although Schelling’s normally clear prose style seems to have abandoned him here (as is the case with many posthumous works), Schelling has drawn together the strands of many theories into a central point about music. Because music is sound, which does not visibly inhere in a substance and takes place over time (unlike painting, sculpture, and literature), it more closely represents the activity of apprehending an art work. Just as in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, the synthetic unity of apprehension must occur over time, music must occur over time – no conventional work of music consists of a single note, and many notes in succession, assembled under strict formal rules, are needed to make the whole comprehensible as a complete work of music. In addition, Renaissance and early modern accounts of the effects of music, many of which continued to have influence in Schelling’s


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

time, connect the infinitely large harmony of the spheres with musical harmony through the mysterious relationship between mathematics and music discovered by Pythagoras. Schelling extends this metaphor of macro- and microcosm into metaphysics to create a series of parallel structures among self-consciousness, music, mathematics, and cosmology. Although Schelling’s lectures on art were later than the period under consideration at the moment (the 1790s), he had an enormous influence on his colleagues at Jena, and his later lectures represent a logical develop- ment from his earlier writings in the System des transcendentalen Idealismus connecting self-consciousness and the category of the aesthetic to actual aesthetic encounters and music. Schelling’s overall position in the history of philosophy remains under dispute, but a curious document known as “Das alteste¨ Systemprogramm des deutschen Idealismus” provides a possi- ble common starting point for Hegel, Holderlin,¨ and Schelling, prefigur- ing not only the direction that Schelling would take in lectures on art but also the increasingly important role of the aesthetic in both Holderin’s¨ and Hegel’s works. This document, found among Hegel’s papers, has been attributed, variously to Hegel, Schelling, and Holderlin,¨ as well as to all three in collaboration. 38 Although there is no consensus regarding its authorship, 39 it is certainly in Hegel’s handwriting, and its style and content are sufficiently different from Hegel’s other writings of the period (between the summer of 1796 and early 1797) to convince most scholars that it is at least a collaboration between Hegel and one or both of his friends, if not Hegel’s copy of Schelling’s or Holderlin’s¨ work. 40 The fragment attempts to synthesize several elements of Idealist philosophy – epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics – into a manifesto in which beauty and freedom resolve the dilemma of spontaneous self-consciousness. It describes itself as an excep- tionally all-encompassing ethics based on an idea of a free, self-postulating, self-conscious being. The means of this self-postulation is the presentation of an image of the self:

The first idea is naturally the presentation of myself, as an absolutely free being. An entire world enters as well with the free, self-conscious being – out of nothing – the only true and conceivable creation from nothing. 41

The subject in this case is not an already existing consciousness that attempts to observe or contemplate itself; it constitutes itself from the beginning as an absolutely free, self-conscious being through an act of the imagination, thereby solving Kant’s dilemma by reversing the order of conceptual events. Self-consciousness does not come from the act of an already created subject; it is inherent in the idea of the subject itself, which posits itself purely

Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment


through imagination. As a “first idea,” this act precedes all other deductions of a priori knowledge, and as a self-generating presentation, it constitutes a form of aesthetic intuition. The desire for a unifying principle in the conclusion makes Schelling’s

role, either as precursor or contributor, abundantly clear, and prefigures the direction that he will take in the Philosophie der Kunst, as well as some of

the more important ideas of Hegel and Holderlin¨

concerning aesthetics:

Finally, the idea that unites all, the idea of beauty, the word taken in its higher, platonic sense. I am now convinced, that the highest act of reason, which encom- passes all ideas, is an aesthetic act, and that truth and goodness are only related in beauty. The philosopher must have as much power as the poet. 42

That the idea of beauty should be taken “in its higher, platonic sense” makes the unambiguous point that the author (or authors) of the docu- ment recognizes the extent to which it embraces pure Idealism, where the understanding of the external world depends as much on the conceptual structure with which the subject perceives it as on the actual world itself. The valorization of the aesthetic judgment of beauty as the “highest act of reason” does not merely mean that art is a superior mode of discourse to philosophy, but that the intuition of self-consciousness is actually based on the free choice of beauty (echoing, and in a sense, completing Schiller’s project in the Aesthetic Education 43 ). We organize our perceptions and our conclusions about everything, from pure logic to practical ethics, because we choose to create our idea of the world according to an ideal. Because this ideal precedes all other aspects of judgment, it can only be chosen for aes- thetic reasons. Consequently, the philosopher must possess as much ability to judge the beautiful as the poet, because beauty, alone among all the rea- sons a philosopher can choose to articulate one system over another (such as truth and goodness, for example), can encompass these other qualities as the results of an already postulated aesthetic choice. The Systemprogramm fragment, more even than Schelling’s later Philoso- phie der Kunst, breaks new ground in both the exploration of subjectivity and aesthetics. By making the self-positing act of self-consciousness not merely parallel to aesthetic intuition but identical to it, the document has potentially moved the concept of self-consciousness from the discourse of metaphysics and placed it entirely within aesthetics, leaving open the possibility that art could better express, demonstrate, or manifest the con- cept than philosophy. This fragment therefore represents the beginning of philosophical investigations in self-consciousness as aesthetic investi- gations. Andrew Bowie, whose contribution to the understanding of the


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

relationship between the two areas is considerable, summarizes the impor- tance placed on the aesthetic object by the Systemprogramm fragment well:

Because the aesthetic product still remains, qua created object, in the realm of intuition, it is able to point to why the world of the senses is not radically separate from the intelligible world. What makes the work a work of art which gives aes- thetic pleasure depends upon our free judgment, which is independent of interest. Without the object, though, we would have no real access to our freedom. In the terms of the SP [“Systemprogramm”] we have this access via the work of art, which gives us a sensuous image of freedom. 44

This idea of art is consistent with Kantian aesthetics in which the work of art arouses pleasure without interest, yet goes far beyond it. The disinter- ested apprehension of beauty is the only means of uniting our perceptions with the conceptual framework required to make it intelligible. The System- programm fragment solves the problem of Kantian synthesis by connecting a priori and a posteriori knowledge through an intuitive aesthetic sense, which provides the essential mental framework to make the external world correspond to the internal workings of the mind, and vice versa. In a sense, the Systemprogramm fragment constitutes both a philosophical and a liter- ary document, as Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy have observed, because it claims the absolute to be literary, that is, Dichtkunst or the art of poetry, yet is not itself a work of poetry. 45 By positing the aesthetic discourse of poetry as the basis for philosophy, the author of the fragment has made the discourse of philosophy itself part of poetry.

mozart and the transformation of enlightenment musical aesthetics

Just as Kant, above all others, was the origin of the move of metaphysics toward aesthetics, so Mozart was the origin of the movement of music toward an elevated status as the highest of the arts. The Mozart legend grew suddenly with his death in 1791 at the age of thirty-five, a year after the publication of Kant’s Critique of Judgment and at the beginning of this remarkably productive (and cooperative) period among the Idealists. At this time, the public conception of Mozart acquired a strange dual nature that mirrored the composer’s own ambivalence toward the prevailing atti- tudes of his contemporaries. For some critics, Mozart was the quintessen- tial Enlightenment composer, eminently reasonable, demonstrating a cool, mathematical perfection in everything he wrote. For others, Mozart was the proto-Romantic genius, erratic, uncontrollable, and destined to an early,

Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 25

impoverished end. I argue that Mozart was both and neither – rather, he embodies, in both his life and his compositions, the Enlightenment belief in the power of the rational mind and the beginning of the Romantic desire to overthrow traditional power relations in favor of the free, self-conscious intellect. He belongs to a transitional period in the late Enlightenment, when composers, who formerly tended to work for a single church or noble patron, began to write and perform for a wider and more diverse audience and became independent contributors to intellectual life. As a socially neu- tral public sphere arose, artists experienced a new independence, which by the early nineteenth century fomented the creation of the composer- hero myth so strongly associated with Beethoven and the Romantic era. Mozart’s music, in both the process of its composition and in its reception, reveals that late Enlightenment and early Idealist ideas of freedom and self-consciousness through artistic creation were not mere abstractions, but manifested themselves in actual practice, eventually leading to what Jim Samson calls “the project of autonomy” in nineteenth-century music. 46 This self-conscious musical style did not arise, however, purely from philosophical convictions (few things do) but from a series of composi- tional decisions made in response to changing conditions in the social and

intellectual context of music. As I mentioned earlier, Mozart finally received his release from the service of the prince-archbishop of Salzburg in 1781, although his father’s secure position as Kapellmeister had enabled him to earn a steady income from both secular and religious assignments. Mozart’s family, although far from poor, was concerned about money, and Mozart had no assurance of similarly reliable assignments in Vienna. In a letter to Abbe´ Bullinger of 1778, three years before he finally left, Mozart explains his reasons for wanting to leave Salzburg despite the uncertainty of making

a living elsewhere:

In the first place, professional musicians there are not held in much consideration; and, secondly, one hears nothing, there is no theatre, no opera; and even if they really wanted one, who is there to sing? For the last five or six years the Salzburg orchestra has always been rich in what is useless and superfluous, but very poor in what is necessary, and absolutely destitute of what is indispensable. 47

Having been one of the foremost prodigies in the history of music, Mozart knew what it was like to be adored by kings and queens and that he was

a better musician and composer than anyone in the world. Salzburg was

a dull outpost; Vienna was the center of the musical world, a cosmopoli-

tan city with a steady flow of composers, musicians, and patrons from all parts of Europe, and a wealthy, enlightened, music-loving emperor, Josef II.


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

This city would give him the resources and audience he craved, and many opportunities to demonstrate the full range of his abilities. In addition, Mozart indicates the extent to which his subservient role bothered him – Mozart clearly believes that in Vienna, more consideration and indepen- dence would come his way. Although Mozart did have many opportunities in Vienna, he neverthe- less did not find steady patronage; Salieri and Haydn already occupied the most desirable positions. Instead, Mozart forged an independent career as a public composer. Between his arrival in 1781 and his decision in 1786 to devote himself to opera composition, Mozart produced a remarkable num- ber of works, either for his own performance or for small commissions and publication. In particular, Mozart focused on developing his public persona through the piano concerto and succeeding thus to become a fashionable composer, creating a number of works that remain unchallenged models for the genre. Instrumental musical forms, almost by definition, resist extramusical interpretation; the concerto nevertheless unavoidably represents the rela- tionship between the individual talent and society at large – in a concerto, a soloist must both cooperate with an orchestra and differentiate himself from it. As both the composer of these concertos and their soloist, Mozart – and Beethoven after him – represented the apotheosis of a particular musical style. According to John Rink,

A distinct compositional style evolved at this time in the music of the composer-

pianists; known as the stile brillante, it thrived on an opposition between bravura

display and lyrical thematicism (often operatic in inspiration), normally manifested

in a highly sectional construction leading to the peak of virtuosity at the end. 48

This style clearly contained parallel dialectical structures through which the identity of the individual composer-soloist asserted himself, balancing not only the opposition between soloist and orchestra but also between the virtuosity of the performer for its own sake (“bravura display”) and the composer and conductor’s ability to control the work as a whole. Similarly, Lydia Goehr has argued for consideration of the social relationship of the composer and performer as part of its interpretive framework:

If we were to take seriously the idea that music is composed by composers in

order to be performed by performers and heard by audiences, we would soon move our interest away from a narrowly formalist concern with works and the question of their formed content and fix it more on the matter of people engaging with music as either an individual or societal assertion of their freedom – their subjective freedom, as I shall often put it, to be musical. 49

Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 27

The social situation of these concertos, therefore, should provide a suitable framework for their interpretation according to the terms already being developed by the Idealists to describe the metaphysical situation of artistic endeavors overall. Here, Mozart’s progress in the direction of autonomy is abundantly clear. Mozart was both soloist and conductor, using hand signals rather than the continuo part to keep time. 50 Under these circum- stances, his control over the performance is nearly absolute – he writes the work, arranges the performance time, place, and audience, conducts the orchestra and plays the solo part. He has emerged from the shadow of service to the prince-archbishop to assert his freedom as a composer and performer, presenting musical material almost totally under his control. For Mozart’s audience, the concerto performance allows them to encounter what theorists of their time would describe as an absolute, unmediated expe- rience of the aesthetic. For Mozart himself, the performance allows him to demonstrate the relationship between the consciousness of the world’s most talented composer and the musical material itself. The stark difference between the social conditions of a hired artisan and a free artist results in a perceivable difference not merely in the attitude of audience and composer but in compositional style. For instance, his Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K.488, one of fifteen written between 1782 and 1786, represents a final stage in his transformation of the genre. Charles Rosen has written a detailed analysis of this concerto’s striking innovations, revealing a number of occasions where Mozart substitutes simplicity for mere virtuosity. As Rosen observes, in the second movement,

The structure of the melody may be two regular parallels, but its beauty and its passionate melancholy lie in the irregularity of rhythm and variety of phrasing which reveal every possible expressive facet of the two simple descending lines. 51

Significantly, Mozart has chosen in this piano concerto, as well as in others he wrote after moving to Vienna, to develop simple melodic material in complex and innovative ways, rather than give in to the temptation to per-

form technically difficult (yet harmonically simple) material for the sake of his own reputation as a performer. According to Maynard Solomon, Mozart “resented being regarded as a performer, a Musikus as opposed to a Kompon-

ist or Kapellmeister

to ‘perform’ that had been impressed on him so long ago.” 52 To put the beauty and complexity of the composition ahead of the demonstration of the performer’s skill is to assert this freedom. Here, Mozart has made a deliberate decision to represent himself in this form not as an extraordinar- ily gifted performer within existing social structures but instead to present a

and he wanted to free himself from the imperative


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

musical art work in which his mastery as a composer takes precedence. He had already experienced admiration for his performing ability as a child, resulting in widespread acclaim, yet without changing his social status. By completely controlling the conditions of performance, he has redefined his relation to society as a whole. Mozart provides further evidence of his emerging intellectual indepen- dence in his later operas. Unlike, for instance, the early La finta giardiniera (first performed early in 1775, when Mozart was eighteen), where the plot and music achieve a perfect, symmetrical resolution at the end, Le nozze di Figaro contains many subtle changes in the classic Enlightenment-era opera buffa pattern, subverting social conventions even at the apparent resolu- tion of the conflict. Even choosing Beaumarchais’s second play in the Figaro trilogy as the basis for the libretto was risky, as both he and da Ponte knew, and represented a number of technical challenges. Da Ponte’s words on the subject are surprisingly (considering his scandalous reputation) frank:

the opera will not be one of the shortest to have been exhibited in our theatre for which we hope sufficient of excuses the variety of threads from which is woven the action of this drama, the vastness and size of the same, the multiplicity of musical pieces which had to be made in order not to keep the actors excessively idle, in order to reduce the boredom and monotony of the long recitatives, in order to express on occasion with diverse colour the diverse passions which there stand forth, and our desire particularly to offer a virtually new kind of spectacle to a public of such refined taste, and such informed judgment. 53

Here, da Ponte reveals that his and Mozart’s intention is not merely to create a better opera than anyone had created before but an entirely different kind of opera, in which greater dramatic and musical complexity would expand public taste. He nevertheless also acknowledges the difficulties involved in managing such a production: singers may not be “excessively idle,” and the long recitatives necessary to connect the plot must be tempered with a variety of more interesting musical forms. The subversive nature of the opera, as well as the role that the music itself would play in dramatizing the subversion, reveals itself in the open- ing scene. As the curtain rises, Figaro counts off the measurements necessary for fitting a bed in his new room, while Susanna admires how she looks in the new hat she has made. Mozart shows Figaro and Susanna to be more than obedient servants; they are hardworking, independent members of the new bourgeois class of traders, bankers, craftsmen, and merchants who were gaining power and significance in European society. For Mozart the Freemason, Figaro and Susanna are precisely the kind of people who should acquire power and self-confidence. In addition, Figaro is counting, using

Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 29

mathematical measurements for practical use. The Enlightenment had wit- nessed an explosion of mathematical knowledge unparalleled since Ancient Greece; Mozart’s lodge, Zur Wohltatigkeit¨ , like other Masonic lodges of the time, ascribed mystical power to numbers and considered them emblematic of the power of the rational mind. Meanwhile, the orchestral accompani- ment to Figaro’s counting both anticipates and echoes the numbers as he says them, the music acting not merely as support for his vocal line but as an equal partner in his enterprise. As the scene continues, Figaro learns of the count’s plan to seduce Susanna and invokes the first of many musical metaphors in the famous cavatina, “Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,” “If you want to dance, count, I’ll play for you.” 54 Directing the action of the opera means taking charge of the music, and making the servant the master of the situation. Figaro has suddenly become self-aware, paralleling Mozart’s attitude toward his rela- tionship with noble patronage. Through Figaro, Mozart reveals an increas- ing sense among the intellectuals of Enlightenment Europe that they, and not those appointed by feudal tradition, are the rightful guardians of civil society and the leaders in the improvement of humanity through increased secular knowledge. Music has given Mozart control of his art, allowing him to overcome censorship and the need to obey a particular noble; the opera would soon make him the toast of both Vienna and Prague. Similar instances of music enabling someone to assert control over a com- plex social situation abound not only in Figaro but also in Don Giovanni, with a significant innovation in musical style accompanying each musical metaphor in the libretto. For example, in the dance scene of the finale of Act I in Don Giovanni, as the other party guests dance a minuet in three-quarter time to one onstage orchestra, Don Giovanni begins to dance a contredance in two-quarter time with Zerlina to another. The pit orchestra also plays, the characters sing dialogue in several conversations, yet every element fits together perfectly. The two onstage orchestras run off when Zerlina cries for help – once the sound of her cry overwhelms the dance tunes, Don Giovanni’s control over them ends, as does this strange moment where Don Giovanni dances to one beat and everyone else dances to another. In this case, the abusive nobleman uses music for his own ends, then loses control when Zerlina’s cries break through his carefully orchestrated and choreographed plan. Similarly, when the statue arrives at the door at the end of the opera, the sound of his knock and Leporello’s inarticulate cries of “ta-ta-ta” end Don Giovanni’s control over the situation. Moreover, the particular sounds that take control from Don Giovanni are nonverbal – screams, knocks, and “ta-ta-ta” – and his fatal mistake is to discount the possibility that a work of art, the statue, could possess


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

consciousness, volition, and the capacity for retribution. Just as the com- mendatore’s statue is not an empty stone image, the pure sound of instru- mental music is not an empty representation of emotion, as Kant and earlier philosophers had described it. At crucial moments in Don Giovanni, the material of music itself, pure sound, takes control and punishes his abuses. In other words, Mozart has given a form of class consciousness, then self- consciousness, to the musical material, connecting the moment in which a viewer confronts a statue – the paradigmatic moment of the aesthetic – with self-conscious reflection and musical material.

the beginning of romantic musical self-consciousness

After Mozart and Kant, theoretical, metaphorical and actual music converge to create the complex, reciprocating matrix of ideas known as Romantic self-consciousness. For Friedrich Holderlin,¨ whose importance as a poet was severely underestimated until the turn of the twentieth century and whose importance as a philosopher is only now being realized, 55 poetry becomes Deutscher Gesang: the reflection of the melopoesis of the Greeks and the representation of his autonomy as a self-conscious being. Hegel, some- what later, incorporates his idea of self-consciousness into a philosophical system encompassing everything from nature to aesthetics to philosophy and religion. I argue in the chapter on Hegel (as does Andrew Bowie, in a different way 56 ) that an intuitive aesthetic element based on music remains an inescapable element in Hegel’s idea of self-consciousness, one that Hegel unsuccessfully attempts to repress. Furthermore, music becomes the epitome of this element because of its inherently nonrepresentational character. The union of words and music in song, although a central trope for Holderlin,¨ represents an insoluble dilemma for Hegel, who nevertheless resorts to the metaphor of music at crucial moments in his discussions of self-consciousness. The development of this relationship between self-consciousness and music spans about thirty years, from the writing of the Systemprogramm fragment in 1796 or 1797 to the late 1820s. In 1797, neither Hegel nor Holderlin¨ had made their mark; Beethoven was still a relatively unknown composer; another year would pass before Wordsworth and Coleridge pub- lished the Lyrical Ballads. By 1827, the year of Beethoven’s death, Hegel had become a prominent professor at the University of Berlin and had given his lectures on aesthetics several times; Wordsworth had become well known but was far past his prime as a poet; Holderlin¨ was confined to a tower over- looking the Neckar as a madman. Although Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

The Beginning of Romantic Musical Self-Consciousness 31

had been widely performed, the late string quartets would remain rela- tively obscure for another seventy-five years. Meanwhile, Kant’s influence had extended throughout Europe, including Vienna, where he came to Beethoven’s attention. 57 The early Romantic era is well known for its turn toward the aesthetic and the valorization of absolute instrumental music as a paradigmatic art; what is less clearly established is that these two phe- nomena are actually facets of a larger conceptual structure. During this time, music underwent a radical transformation unmatched by any other in the history of the arts since the Renaissance. Although the emergence of a more varied public certainly created the conditions in which composers could assert their artistic identities more freely than before, social and political forces alone do not explain this musical revolution adequately. Three composers of unprecedented talent succeeded each other in a city that could give them patronage (with few restrictions on their creations), well- trained musicians, and a large, sophisticated audience. Before Viennese classicism, even the best of musical art played a role in intellectual and social life not much more significant than decoration in architecture – musical works served God, nobility, and royalty by glorifying them, not the composers themselves. By the 1820s, composers had come to represent autonomous genius. Many arguments about the idea of the genius and the social construct of the artist as hero have illuminated this moment in cultural history, but nothing would have been constructed – socially or otherwise – without some basis in real musical ability. Viennese classicism has had as profound and enduring effect on western culture as Italian Renaissance painting. The link between Renaissance humanism and the art of Leonardo and Michelangelo is not explicit, but it is certainly undeniable; so, too, is that between Idealist philosophy and Romantic music and poetry. Just as the main achievement of Viennese classicism, sonata form, shares many charac- teristics of the philosophical structures of Hegelian dialectic – the primacy of teleology, contrasting binary terms leading to a transcendent synthesis, and greater organized length – so do Michelangelo’s paintings and sculpture, with their attention to human scale and proportion and idealized classical form, mirror the focus on humanity and neoclassical models of Renaissance philosophy. I have already described, however briefly, the continuing influ- ence of Kant’s metaphysics; that the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony remain the most recognizable motif in music history hardly needs mentioning. I explore how and why the idea of self-consciousness came to such prominence simultaneously in both philosophy and music and how poetic discourse mediated between the two.


Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment

This exploration begins with Friedrich Holderlin,¨ almost unknown dur- ing the relatively short life he led before going insane, yet now considered an important poet and philosopher. Chapter Two, “Holderlin’s¨ Deutscher Gesang and the Music of Poetic Self-consciousness” traces several connec- tions between philosophy and artistic creation through the essays, letters, and poems of Friedrich Holderlin,¨ a friend and classmate of Hegel and Schelling at the Tubingen¨ Theological Seminary. The philosophical frag- ments, written at or about the time of the Systemprogramm fragment but undoubtedly by Holderlin,¨ show his gradual movement away from prose and towards poetry as his main form of expression. Poetry, for Holderlin,¨ provides the means of connecting the human and the divine, as well as the Hesperian (that is, Western or Germanic) present with the Greek past. For all these mediations, Holderlin¨ requires a series of complex musical metaphors based on an idealized view of the Pindaric tradition reflecting a longing for transcendence inherent in Romantic aesthetics.


chapter 2

Deutscher Gesang and the

Music of Poetic Self-Consciousness

I should forget only her song, only these notes of the soul should never return in my unending dreams. The proudly sailing swan remains unknown, when it sits on the bank slumbering. Only when she sang could you recognize the loving, silent one, who so reluctantly made herself understood in words.

– Holderlin,¨


In the early Idealist accounts of self-consciousness explored in the pre- vious chapter, the subject generally recognizes its existence by defining itself against various kinds of object. However, theoretical explanations of subjectivity do not themselves generate self-conscious entities; the actual, practical experience of the self remains elusive. In Kant’s version of subjec- tivity, self-consciousness emerges from intellectual intuition, a prereflective sense of the self’s existence as the subject of different experiences over time; the construction of the subject is therefore a synthetic act, realized through transcendental deduction. However, this formulation contains a surprisingly unmotivated version of the self, with no clear account of its origin. In Fichte’s answer to this dilemma, the self posits itself through its oppo- sition to a material object, a nonself he calls the Nicht-ich, and becomes self-conscious by differentiating the Ich from the Nicht-ich and declaring “I am I.” Still, Fichte’s explanation of self-consciousness relies on a potentially solipsistic moment and does not sufficiently address the ultimate cause of the process. In response, the Systemprogramm fragment provides the moti- vation for this critical moment by describing the process as a free, aesthetic choice to become self-conscious, the result of a desire for beauty – a long- ing for order in the material that also seems to lack sufficient grounds for its existence. Similarly, Schelling describes the act of self-positing through an aesthetic encounter with the self, the unification of subject and object




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through a continuous process of the self becoming its own object, combin- ing the self-positing aspects of Fichte’s version with the desire for order in the Systemprogramm fragment, yet not entirely resolving the difficulties of either. In different ways and to varying degrees, these accounts rely on the category of the aesthetic to mediate the encounter between subject and object, either as the experience of precognitive sensation in general or as an encounter with beauty in particular. However, the relationship between these two versions of the aesthetic remains unclear, as does the overall relationship between theoretical descriptions of self-consciousness and the actual experience of the thinking self. Theoretical descriptions of the self that rely on a purely abstract idea of the aesthetic leave the practical experi- ence of selfhood relatively unexamined. Likewise, purely Kantian, formalist views of art do not provide a sufficient, or useful, account of the relation- ship between the self and the creative process. In other words, at this point in intellectual history, the aesthetic has become the focal point for both philosophical and artistic development. The next chapter in the history of Idealist philosophy is therefore also the next chapter in the history of Romantic art and would be written by a figure long underestimated in both philosophy and poetry: Friedrich Holderlin.¨ Holderlin¨ published few of his literary works and none of his philo- sophical texts during his lifetime; he nevertheless provided one of the most interesting and influential accounts of the connection between aesthetics and metaphysics. A fragmentary essay known as “Urtheil und Seyn,” set the stage for a complex set of transitions – first from metaphysics to aesthetics, then from poetics to poetry – in which musical form plays a critical role in reconciling philosophy with poetry, and the theoretical with the practical. The essay was probably written as an immediate response to Fichte’s Jena lectures in 1794 or 1795 and represents the beginning of Holderlin’s¨ turn toward poetry. In making the difficult transformation from philosopher to poet, Holderlin¨ establishes the vital connection between self-consciousness and the material world of art and life; he constitutes himself as a poet through the act of creation, and constitutes a musical-poetic voice, or Gesang, within the text of the poem. Close readings of the essays “Urtheil und Seyn,” (“Judgment and Being”) and “Wechsel der Tone,”¨ (“Change of Tone”) and several of Holderlin’s¨ later poems reveals that Holderlin’s¨ ideal of a unified poetry and music reflects a synthesis of subject and object in poetry that resolves the questions brought up in what we may call his

“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 35

“poetological” writings, following the practice of the Schlegel brothers, although Holderlin¨ probably did not use this term himself. 1 In a series of metaphors positing and resolving the dialectical oppositions between musical sound and poetic text, human existence and divine transcendence, and ancient Greece and modern Hesperia (Holderlin’s¨ term for the Euro- pean West), Holderlin¨ addresses the central problem of Idealist philosophy:

the fission between the abstractions of philosophy and the materiality of existence. Holderlin’s¨ resolution of this division consists in the concrete realization of the self in the music of poetry, seen as a material manifesta- tion of the existence of the divine in the human, and of being in aesthetic judgment.

“urtheil und seyn”: existence in poetry

Between 1794 and 1800, Holderlin¨ wrote a series of short, unpublished essays on philosophy and poetry – many of which exist only as fragments – as well as many letters addressing those topics. Several excellent studies (in particular those by Kurz, 2 Henrich, 3 and Frank 4 ) examine the concept of self-consciousness in Holderlin’s¨ early philosophical writings, establishing his importance as a contributor to the circle of philosophers gathered in Jena during the late 1790s, which included his comrades at the Tubinger¨ Stift, Hegel and Schelling. During this time, Holderlin¨ wrote his most famous, and probably earliest, attempt to confront the problem of subjectivity: the fragmentary essay known as “Urtheil und Seyn.” This fragment, written on the flyleaf of a book between May 1794 and April 1795, represents a remarkably early critique of Fichte, and, as Dieter Henrich has observed, a new direction in the history of Idealist thought. 5 In particular, the essay confronts two major issues: the subject-object division of being and the difference between the theoretical, philosophical “I” and the practical, individual “I.” To address the first issue, H olderlin¨ creates a spurious etymology of the word “Urtheil,” “judgment”:

Judgment. in the highest and strictest sense is the original separation of object and subject which are most deeply united in intellectual intuition, that separation through which alone object and subject become possible, the arche-separation. In the concept of separation, there lies already the concept of the oppositional relationship of object and subject to each other, and the necessary presupposition of a whole, of which object and subject form the parts. “I am I” is the most suitable example for this concept of judgment as theoretical separation, for in practical judgment it opposes the not-I, not itself. 6



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The etymology of “Urtheil” (“Urteil” in modern spelling) Holderlin¨ creates for this occasion immediately sets two major, recognizable concepts in Idealist thought in conflict with each other. The first, Kant’s concept of judgment as the pre-cognitive moment of sensory awareness, presupposes the presence of a subject, yet the second, Fichte’s self-positing and self- conscious subject, presupposes an act of judgment that separates the “I” from the “not-I,” thereby bringing the subject into existence. Fichte’s “I am I” can therefore only posit itself theoretically, because the faculty of judgment required for its existence requires a pre-existing practical self. Holderlin’s¨ division of “Urtheil” into “Ur-theil,” that is, his analysis of judgment as the original or archeseparation of subject and object, therefore makes Fichte’s version of self-consciousness paradoxical. The declaration of “I am I” requires judgment to give it an “I” and a “not-I,” yet the faculty of judgment requires an “I” to possess it. The theoretical subject cannot posit both the existence of the practical subject and the subject-object relation, because the ability to posit anything requires a practical subject with the faculty of judgment to do any positing at all. Neither judgment nor self- consciousness can take place without an existing framework consisting of a practical subject, a material object, and a process of self-reflection, all of which presuppose being, which Holderlin¨ discusses on the other side of the flyleaf. The side entitled “Seyn,” “Being,” which Beißner assumes to be its sec- ond part (a highly contested issue 7 ), attempts to explain the relationship between Fichte’s absolute “I” and the practical “I” through the concept of intellectual intuition, the concept Kant used as the basis for his version of self-consciousness. In Holderlin’s¨ view, being in itself, a unified being, exists only prior to the subject-object division, as in the case of Kant’s intellectual intuition but not in Fichte’s absolute “I.” Because the absolute, self-positing “I” must reflect both on the “not-I” and the “I,” it is merely an “I,” able to posit itself as a subject but unable to posit the totality of existence preceding the separation of subject and object. The theoretical “I” that posits its own existence by saying “I am I” cannot therefore posit the already presupposed practical self as a means of achieving self-consciousness. Consequently, Holderlin¨ asks how self-consciousness is possible at all:

How can I say: I! without self-consciousness? But how is self-consciousness possible? By this means, in opposing myself with myself, I separate myself from myself, but regardless of this separation of myself in opposition, I recognize myself as the same. But to what extent the same? I can, I must ask this way; for in another respect it opposes itself. Therefore, identity is not a unity of object and subject that would merely take place, therefore identity is not equivalent to absolute being. 8

“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 37

“Opposing myself with myself” in this context means creating not only the fact of self-reflection through opposition but also positing the elements of the opposition itself. In Holderlin’s¨ view, the self posits an objectified ver- sion of itself in opposition to the subjective self, creating self-consciousness through the difference between the subjective self and the self-as-object, that is, between the practical “I” that performs the actions of the subject and the theoretical “I” that is the object of this philosophical inquiry. Fichtean self-consciousness would therefore require the “I” to posit both the subject and the unity of subject and object simultaneously, unifying subject and object through the act of self-positing, yet separating them through judg- ment, the Urteil of the other side of the flyleaf. As Dieter Henrich observes, Holderlin¨ has concluded that neither the practical nor the theoretical “I” can simply create being:

For Holderlin,¨ whose theme, along with Plato and Schiller, was the possibility of unification, the reason he gives in “Judgment and Being” could easily become compelling: one must conceive, prior to the distinction between subject and object that constitutes all consciousness, a whole that always remains unknowable. 9

Despite its remarkable insights, “Urtheil und Seyn” remains a fragmentary, unfinished project, and Holderlin’s¨ subsequent career in philosophy does not reveal anything that supersedes it, even if he is the actual author of the Systemprogramm fragment written two years later. Although Holderlin¨ enjoyed moderate success in both publication and social life, he left Jena shortly after composing this fragment, in May or June of 1795, for reasons that remain unclear. He moved to Frankfurt, a city he hated, and expressed considerable regret for having left Jena. 10 While visiting his mother in Nurtingen¨ in September of 1795, he wrote to Schiller about working on the problem further:

I intend to develop the idea of an unending progress of philosophy, I intend to show that the undiminished demand that must be made on every system, the

unification of subject and object in an absolute – I or whatever one wants to call

it – is indeed aesthetically, in intellectual intuition, or at least theoretically possible,

but only through an infinite approximation, like the approximation of a square in

a circle, and that in order to realize such a system of thought, immortality is just

as necessary as it is for a system of behavior. I believe I am able to prove by this means the extent to which the skeptics are correct, and the extent to which they

are incorrect. 11

Although Holderlin¨ had mentioned a philosophical project in several other letters, including one to his friend Niethammer where he mentions an idea for “Neue Briefe uber¨ asthetische¨ Erziehung,” 12 no trace of a formal



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version of this system remains, unless, of course, he is referring to “Urtheil und Seyn” itself or the Systemprogramm fragment; no definitive evidence for either conclusion has emerged. The description of this project in this letter nevertheless makes an interesting comparison between any possi- ble account of subjectivity and the well-known mathematical problem of squaring the circle, that is, finding a method for precisely replicating the area of a given circle in the form of square, using only a straightedge and compass. Although conclusive proof that this task is impossible would not arrive until 1882, 13 Leibniz’s and Newton’s calculus had already established that only an increasingly accurate approximation could be achieved by the methods available to mathematicians in 1795; the problem is therefore emblematic of both an infinitely receding goal (using current methods) and

a problem that might be solved through an innovative approach. In addi-

tion, Holderlin¨ states somewhat cryptically that “immortality” would be

as necessary for solving the problem as it would for a “system of behavior.” Does Holderlin¨ mean that the task would require immortality to complete, or does he mean that a concept of immortality would be necessary for such

a system? The letter supports either reading, but I find it more likely that

Holderlin¨ has returned to Descartes’ proof of the immortality of the soul by dividing consciousness or the mind from the body in the Meditations

on First Philosophy. 14 In that case, Holderlin’s¨ solution to the unification of subject and object, as he admits in the letter, is only theoretically possible unless it occurs “aesthetically, in intellectual intuition,” as he had described

it in “Urtheil und Seyn.”

Moreover, the possibility that his friends would help him realize – and publish – this system diminished rapidly. Other letters from the period indicate that Holderlin¨ had broken with the entire Jena group for either personal or philosophical reasons; he would not attempt to renew his friend- ship with Schelling until years later. 15 Schelling’s solution to the problem of self-consciousness, as I indicated in the first chapter, was indeed an approx- imation based on an infinite regression; if Holderlin¨ was aware of this solution, the letter seems to indicate that he found it inadequate. Whether Holderlin¨ abandoned his philosophical project due to his own circum- stances, the general dissolution of the Jena circle, or a discouragement with the possibilities of philosophy, he did not continue working directly on philosophical prose. Continuing this approach would correspond roughly to an attempt to square the circle using calculus – an infinite task, already tried many times. Another discourse entirely would be the only hope of solving the problem; for this reason, he began his famous turn toward poetry.

“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 39

Turning to poetry, therefore, did not mean abandoning the problem of being; on the contrary, poetry, particularly for Holderlin,¨ provides an entirely different and more congruous approach to the problem. The dif- ference between philosophy and poetry is their mode of being in itself, and the history of modern Holderlin¨ criticism provides ample demonstra- tions of this fact. In “Holderlin¨ und das Wesen der Dichtung” (“Holderlin¨ and the Essence of Poetry”), Martin Heidegger declares Holderlin¨ to be the “Dichter des Dichters,” the “poet of the poet” who defines and cre- ates poetic existence. 16 Although Heidegger uses his readings of Holderlin’s¨ poetry to support his own philosophical system (Adorno 17 and de Man, 18 among others, have made this abundantly clear), he nevertheless provides valuable insight into the status of the poet in Holderlin’s¨ poetry:

The poet himself stands between the former – the Gods, and the latter – the people. But alone and first in this Between it is decided, who the human being should be, and where he should settle his being. “Humanity lives poetically on this earth.”

Without interruption and with increasing certainty, from the fullness of the surging images and more and more simply, Holderlin¨ has consecrated this in-between realm with his poetic word. 19

Despite the dubious textual evidence Heidegger himself cites in his essays on Holderlin,¨ 20 Holderlin’s¨ more certain texts support Heidegger’s overall claims. Here, Heidegger poses the question of the ontology of the poet in terms of the poet’s metaphysical location, “where he settles his being,” a place between a series of related oppositional terms and outside of human society. Holderlin’s¨ poetry abounds with references to figures who are also outsiders and mediators, including Christ, Bacchus, and Rousseau. Hei- degger correctly describes them as “Hinausgeworfener,” “thrown-out ones,” exiles who create their own context and identity in a Zwischenbereich, an area of between-ness. As a poet, Holderlin¨ stands between many worlds, but his poetry creates a particular ontological space. The poem itself is the Zwischenbereich, as Paul de Man’s commentary on Heidegger’s interpretation of Holderlin¨ makes clear:

Each poem, or every work seen as a whole, is a particular version of the under- standing that a poetic consciousness possesses of its own specific and autonomous intent – or, to put it differently, each work asks the question of its own mode of being, and it is the task of the interpreter not to answer this question but to make explicit in what manner and with what degree of awareness the question is asked. The intent of poetic language is certainly not directed toward empirical insight, nor is it transcendental in the sense that it leads to a closer contact with being in



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general; its intent is ontological, that is, directed toward an awareness of its own particular being. 21

The vital distinction between poetry and other modes of discourse – espe- cially philosophy – is in the self-awareness of poetic language as poetic language, “its awareness of its own particular being.” This statement does not reflect a mythologized valorization of poetry in general, nor does it intend to indicate that Holderlin’s¨ poetry contains some mystical quality; rather, it simply means that in Holderlin’s¨ poetry, the poem’s formal ele- ments – rhythm, meter, trope, modality, diction and so forth – and the

indications of its status as poetry in the poem’s content create a form of poetic self-consciousness by reflecting on the conditions of the poem’s exis- tence. In other words, the philosophical act of saying “I am I” becomes both

a theoretical and a practical statement when performed in poetic discourse

because the material of poetry is, in fact, language, and a declaration of

a poem’s existence as poetry has both theoretical and practical results: the poem gains its own existence as poetic language through poetic language.

“wechsel der tone”:¨

the music of poetic language

Despite its brief and cryptic nature, “Wechsel der Tone”¨ [“Exchange of Tones”] (StA IV, 1, pp. 23840), illuminates the connection between Holderlin’s¨ theoretical writings and his poetic practice more, perhaps, than any other of the poetological essays. According to Lawrence Ryan, the essay represents the cornerstone of a full-fledged poetic doctrine when considered in the context of the poetological essays, although even this distinguished scholar admits that “Wechsel der Tone”¨ is still not completely understood. 22 More recently, Cyrus Hamlin’s assessment of the text has revealed its clear affinity with both poems and essays by Schiller published in Die Horen. 23 In my view, another text published in Die Horen in 1795, Christian Gottfried


Character in Music), also influenced Holderlin’s¨ creation of “Wechsel der Tone”¨ to an equal or even greater degree. Holderlin¨ undoubtedly read Korner’s¨ essay when it appeared in the same issue as Schiller’s Aesthetic

Education; Korner,¨ as both a serious intellectual and Schiller’s patron, would certainly have merited Holderlin’s¨ attention. Korner’s¨ essay provides an essential link between the formal and the affective elements of musical com- position, using both general principles and terminology that closely parallel those in “Wechsel der Tone.”¨ In addition, Korner’s¨ essay gives Holderlin¨

a paradigmatic solution to the problem of connecting the theoretical with


Uber Charakterdarstellung in der Musik (On the Representation of

“Wechsel der Tone”:¨ The Music of Poetic Language 41

the practical, in both philosophical and poetic terms. Music, for Korner,¨ can provide a direct connection between the purely material and the purely formal, potentially bypassing any specifically symbolic stage. Korner,¨ an accomplished composer and musician as well as a wealthy lawyer, wrote his essay on music aesthetics in response to what he thought were mistaken Enlightenment ideas about the subject, particularly, Kant’s assertion that music is merely an agreeable succession of vaguely portrayed emotions. He argues that, on the contrary, an excellent musical work requires unity, as does any other great work of art, and that the unity of a musical work should be considered the representation of character, or ethos. 24 Holderlin’s¨ “Wechsel der Tone”¨ likewise identifies Tone¨ , that is, “tones” or “keys” as the overall unifying elements of poetic composi- tion and categorizes them as naiv, heroisch, or idealisch, terms that describe overall character rather than specific emotional states. The rhetorical ques- tions at the beginning of “Wechsel der Tone,”¨ seen in light of Korner’s¨ essay, contain an unmistakable analogy between musical composition and poetic composition, borrowing several important musicological concepts and terms:

Does the ideal catastrophe not resolve itself into the heroic in that the natural tonic key becomes an opposite? Does the natural catastrophe not resolve itself into the ideal in that the heroic tonic key becomes an opposite? Does the heroic catastrophe not resolve itself into the natural in that the ideal tonic key becomes an opposite? 25

The terms of the Tone¨ – naive, heroic, and ideal – also represent the relation between aesthetic material and abstract thought that Holderlin¨ could not resolve in “Urtheil und Seyn.” The series of catastrophes in the opening rhetorical questions represent the collapse of each dialectical opposition into a third term, in each case demonstrating that the resolution of any opposition is not a perfect synthesis, but a catastrophic collapse of the dialectical structure. In other words, an epic poem follows the course of a ideal hero realizing his heroism in action, thereby ending the occasion for heroism; a tragic poem follows the course of a na¨ıve hero into the catastrophe of death through an increased consciousness of his own na¨ıvete;´ a lyric poem reflects on itself, resolving into a na¨ıve and idealized moment but isolating itself from the world of action. Moreover, Auflosen¨ , the main verb in all these questions, has a specific musicological meaning when it takes the preposition in – it describes the resolution of a dissonance into a consonance characteristic of a cadence, the



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dominant-tonic chord progression that defines a key. The word Anfangston refers to the overall key of a musical work, the tonal area in which a tradi- tional, sonata form composition begins and ends. Sonata form also generally requires a modulation (in German, Tonartwechsel) to a contrasting key, usu-

ally based on the dominant chord (the key of G major, for instance, for a work beginning in C major), creating a large-scale key structure that mirrors the small-scale cadence that defines the key, the structure also known as the tonic-dominant axis. Holderlin’s¨ “Wechsel der Tone”¨ therefore attempts to emulate in poetry the structural characteristics of musical Tonartwechsel, that is, how tonal music defines its key center through the assertion of an opposing key. Holderlin’s¨ purpose in adopting this musical terminology is twofold. First, its use enables him to create a formalized poetics resembling that of musical composition, thereby following Schiller’s admonition in the


Asthetische Erziehung that all great art should try to approach the condi- tion of music through sheer form. Second, it provides him with a way to approach the problem of being according to Korner’s¨ musicological prin- ciples. In one passage, Korner¨ claims that the cadence does not necessarily indicate a specific object or emotion but contains a formal direction that

can actually represent existence as a whole:

Music, too, has a specific aim – that of regaining the home tonic. The ear’s satisfac- tion increases or diminishes to the extent that the musical progression approaches or moves away from it. This objective towards which music moves does not, how- ever, symbolise anything in the visible world. It symbolises the unknown something which can be imagined as an individual object, as the sum of many objects, or as the external world in its entirety. 26

The word Korner¨ uses for the tonic key, Hauptton, is nearly identical in meaning to Holderlin’s¨ Anfangston; the sensation of reaching this goal, that is, resolving the cadence, both gives the listener pleasure, and provides music with its formal beauty. In addition, music indicates or symbolizes (andeuten) an “unknown something” that can be imagined as an individual object, a group of objects, or the entire external world. A poetics based on Korner’s¨ concept of musical form could therefore resolve the problem of abstraction by replacing a linguistically based hermeneutic of symbolic representation with a musically based hermeneutic of formal beauty. Holderlin¨ therefore changes musical modulation, Tonartwechsel, into poetic modulation, Wechsel der Tone¨ , a calculated succession of character- istic poetic modes. The rest of the essay confirms his intention to create a formal dialectical structure similar to that of music in poetry, in which

Divine Self-Positing


traditional genres – epic, tragic, and lyric – serve as the counterparts to the



Indeed for the epic poem. The tragic poem goes about a key further, the lyric uses this key as an opposite and returns in this way, in every style, back to its beginning key or: The epic poem ends with its original opposite, the tragic with the key of its catastrophe, the lyric with itself, so that the lyric end is a na¨ıve-ideal [end], the tragic is a na¨ıve-heroic [end], the epic is an ideal-heroic [end]. 27

Like classical harmony, the modalities of poetry in this scheme have con- trasting opposites against which they define themselves and find resolution. In both musical composition and Holderlin’s¨ poetic scheme, a work begins by stating a theme in a certain key, modulates to another key for a contrast- ing theme, then modulates back to the first key. An intermediate tonal- ity common to both mediates between contrasting keys, allowing polar opposites to find resolution. By associating the purely formal structure of instrumental music with these modalities, Holderlin¨ replaces the triadic structure of Pindaric ode – strophe, antistrophe, epode – with a mod- ern version that can assimilate and synthesize his own style and provide a connection between formal structure and thematic content. The poetic modulations Holderlin¨ describes, however briefly, in “Wech- sel der Tone”¨ outline precisely the same kind of abstract rules of composi- tion for poetry that the rules of harmony would for musical composition – the abstract principles which govern particular aesthetic choices and allow a conceptual scheme to be realized in the work. A concept of musical form therefore links the abstract principles of poetry to their concrete realization in poetry. The question remains, however, of the extent to which Holderlin¨ put this theory into practice. I believe that the third element of Holderlin’s¨ project, the body of poetic works, reveals how poetic theory and practical poetics become the aesthetic material of poetry. In addition, a letter to a friend describing the mod- ern poet’s relation to the tradition of Greek poetry confirms Holderlin’s¨ commitment to continuing his project. In a certain sense, the result of Holderlin’s¨ efforts brought him far closer than his contemporaries to solv- ing the problem of self-consciousness that had vexed them for so long.

divine self-positing: “dichterberuf” and the first letter to bohlendorff¨

Although Holderlin¨

breviations for “na¨ıve,” “heroic,” and “ideal,” he does not seem to have

actually annotated one poem, “Diotima,” with ab-



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employed the “Wechsel der Tone”¨ as an overt template for his poetic projects. 28 They nevertheless correspond to the “keys” of the poem, identi- fying specific sections as such and following a compositional theory. These terms are almost certainly analogous to key succession, thus showing an active interest in this correspondence, almost as if a poem had a key. Clearly, Holderlin¨ did follow the general outlines of the theory when writing poetry, that is, he established a series of modulations and oppositions in his poems according to a musical model. Two texts, the poem “Dichterberuf,” “The Poet’s Vocation,” composed in the summer of 1800, and a letter he wrote to a fellow poet, Casimir Ulrich Bohlendorff¨ in December of 1801, relate directly to question of becoming a poet. They reveal how Holderlin¨ bal- anced the dialectical opposition between the idealized, holy vocation of poetry inherited from the Greeks and the base influence of modern life and how the poet aspired to a new kind of German song, the voice of Hesperia. The earlier text, “Dichterberuf,” begins by invoking Bacchus, asking him to “give us laws, and give us life.” “Laws and life” are a curious combina- tion of requests, especially when asked of Bacchus, the demigod of wine, whose invocation normally releases one from restrictions and inhibitions. The apparent contradiction continues when Holderlin¨ makes an important distinction between poetry and other occupations:

Nicht, was wohl sonst des Menschen Geschik und Sorg’ Im Haus und unter offenem Himmel ist, Wenn edler, denn das Wild, der Mann sich

Wehret und nahrt!¨

denn es gilt ein anders,

Zu Sorg’ und Dienst den Dichtenden anvertraut!

Der Hochste,¨

Daß naher,¨

der ists, dem wir geeignet sind, immerneu besungen

Ihn die befreundete Brust vernehme.

(StA II, 1, p. 46)

Not that which else is human kind’s care and skill Both in the house and under the open sky When, nobler than wild beasts, men work to Fend, to provide for themselves – to poets A different task and calling has been assigned. The Highest, he it is whom alone we serve, So that more closely, ever newly Sung, he will meet with a friendly echo. 29

Here, poets rise above basic material needs, fulfilling a fundamentally dif- ferent role in the world from that of animals, who know no law but survival, and from that of human beings, who work on a more civilized level. Poets,

Divine Self-Positing


like priests, have a fundamentally different task: they serve “the Highest” and have been entrusted with a sacred mission to sing the praises of the divine “ever newly,” yet as part of a tradition. Curiously, Holderlin¨ chooses to categorize poets as a group and to call himself one of them implicitly through the pronoun wir (“we”), rather than name himself a poet directly; John Jay Baker has correctly observed that “Dichterberuf” uses every pronoun except Ich (“I”), indicating a powerful urge toward self-negation. 30 However, as Guido Schmidlin observes, the question of creating oneself as a poet cannot be dismissed so easily: “Who calls the poet? Does he call himself or does he have a ‘higher’ call to do his work? Holderlin¨ poses this question, in that he writes poetry.” 31 In “Dichterberuf,” the divinely inspired call to write poetry cannot come from the poet alone, yet the poet himself must respond appropriately not by mere self-praise but by writing actual poetry, rather than merely posturing. The poem goes even further, warning against the degeneration of poetry into a mere craft by distinguishing divinely inspired poets and those whose skill lies in mere imitation. The difference lies in their relationship with their Greek predecessors:

Und darum hast du, Dichter! des Orients Propheten und den Griechensang und

Neulich die Donner gehort,¨

damit du

Den Geist zu Diensten brauchst und die Gegenwart Des Guten ubereilst,¨ in Spott

(StA II, 1, p. 47)

And for that only, poet, you heard the East’s Great prophets, heard Greek song, and lately Heard divine thunder ring out – to make a Vile trade of it, exploiting the Spirit, presume On his kind presence, mocking him


Writing poetry well means creating not for material gain but in remem- brance of Greek song and Eastern prophecy; it requires the poet to receive inspiration in his own time, even as he remembers the past. The absence of the gods in these times makes the obligation to remember all the more acute, as the paradoxical final lines indicate: “Und keiner Waffen Brauchts und keiner / Listen, so lange, bis Gottes Fehl hilft,” “And needs no weapon and no wile till / God’s being missed in the end will help him.” 33 Divine absence helps him by allowing him to realize his purpose as the represen- tative of the divine principle – the poet’s vocation would not be nearly so essential if the divine being were actually present.



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In practical terms, how does a poet mediate between the absence of the divine and its presence in poetry? How, precisely, can a German poet of the nineteenth century simultaneously invoke the Greek tradition and lament the absence of the immanent encounters with the divine that the Greeks enjoyed? The Romantic lament that the Greeks were closer to divine inspiration is familiar to us from any number of poets; for Holderlin,¨ the difference between the poets of the present in Western Europe (“Hesperia”) and the Greeks was not merely a thematic occasion for a particular kind of sentimental poetry – it was the essence of his self-identity as a poet. In the first of two letters to his friend and fellow poet Casimir Ulrich Bohlendorff,¨ he explained these principles as both spiritual and practical matters. The crucial passage discusses exactly what we, the Hesperians, need to learn of the poet’s craft and how that can be learned from ancient models:

We learn nothing with more difficulty than to use freely that which is national. And I believe that clarity of representation was originally as natural to us as the fire from heaven was to the Greeks. They therefore are easily surpassed in beautiful passion, which you have also taken on yourself, than in Homeric presence of spirit and the gift of representation. It sounds paradoxical. But I assert once again, and I submit freely for your examination and use, that what is actually of one’s own nationality will always be less advantageous in spiritual development. Therefore, the Greeks are less masters of holy pathos because it was inborn for them, while on the other hand, they have a greater advantage in the gift of representation from Homer onward, because this extraordinary person was soulful enough to capture Western Junonian sobriety for his realm of Apollo and to learn so truly that which was foreign to him. For us it’s reversed. For this reason, it’s also so dangerous to abstract the rules of art solely and only from Greek splendor. 34

This letter has been examined many times and in great detail because it con- tains two extraordinarily important elements for understanding Holderlin:¨ a clear, practical poetics and a dialectical examination of the relationship the poet bears to his Greek predecessors. At first glance, it appears to be a remarkably straightforward statement of Holderlin’s¨ compositional principles; a closer examination reveals a far more ambiguous document. Fortunately, three of Holderlin’s¨ greatest critics have given us a series of insightful readings: Peter Szondi, 35 Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, 36 and Andrzej Warminski. 37 All these readings reveal an inherent problem in the Greece-Hesperia opposition described in the first letter to Bohlendorff¨ that closely resembles a difficulty with reflective models of self-consciousness:

the dialectical relation between the self and the other does not yield a

Divine Self-Positing


symmetrical set of binary oppositions, and therefore does not necessarily reveal the grounds on which it has been posited. More specifically, das Eigene, that which is one’s own, and das Fremde, that which is foreign, the primary categorical oppositions in this letter, create what appears at first to be a kind of mirror image, but on closer examination reveals a difficult instability. Die Klarheit der Darstellung, clar- ity of representation, is natural to Hesperians; das Feuer von Himmel, the fire from heaven, is natural to Greeks. These characteristics, “our own,” are held inwardly, with little outward demonstration. That which is foreign, on the other hand, becomes the most visible aspect of each group’s art:

the Greeks demonstrate “Junonian sobriety,” whereas Hesperians demon- strate “holy pathos.” These characteristics manifest themselves outwardly precisely because they do not come easily or naturally to each group – what requires the most effort to master becomes most prominent. In Holderlin’s¨ view, Homer, the greatest poet among the Greeks and fiery by nature, pro- duced great poetry by expressing the cool sobriety foreign to him, whereas we – the Hesperians – produce great works by expressing the passion that Greeks possessed naturally. According to Peter Szondi, Holderlin¨ uses this scheme to overcome the obligation to imitate Greek models perceived by Neoclassicists while still learning from them. 38 As both Lacoue-Labarthe 39 and Warminski 40 point out, Szondi’s reading of the text reflects a funda- mentally Hegelian bias: the Hesperian poetic self struggles for recognition from its Greek other in much the same way that the master and slave struggle in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Warminski, however, sees ways in which Holderlin’s¨ dialectical scheme does not correspond precisely to Hegel’s:

it is clear that a dialectical mediation of that which is our own and that which is foreign, das Eigene and das Fremde – in short, a representation of das Eigene as das Fremde (“our own origin as a foreign one”) – is possible only as long as we do not read these words in Holderlin’s¨ sense but transform them, translate them, as it were, into a Hegelian sense: that is, in order for us to recognize our origin, das Eigene, we must translate Holderlin’s¨ das Fremde into Hegelian das Fremde, a foreignness that is not our own (but is natural, their own, for the Greeks), into a foreignness that belongs to us, in short, we must translate that which is radically foreign into that which is foreign for us (i.e., not really foreign but our own – das Fremde into das Eigene). 41

In other words, what can be known of the Greeks can only be understood by making the das Eigene and das Fremde dialectic serve as a determinate negation, an opposition with a specific understanding already inherent in the terms of the opposition, when the opposition itself – from our position relative to the Greeks – tells us very little, if anything at all. The



Deutscher Gesang

effort to reverse this opposition to understand ourselves by seeing our own nature in what was foreign to the Greeks depends on knowing precisely what is our own and what is foreign to us in advance. As in the case of the self-positing “I,” the term necessary for reading the dialectic only emerges after the reading has already taken place and somehow grounded itself in the particular. The terms cannot be resolved in theory; only poetic, rather than philosophical, discourse provides the necessary grounds for knowledge either of ourselves or of our Greek predecessors. One cannot, as Holderlin¨ himself recognized, “abstract the rules of art solely and only from Greek splendor”; the rules remain too abstract, too alienated from the material nature of poetic language and from the par- ticular circumstances of history, audience, and place. Poetry, like music, requires the concrete dimensions of time and sound, as well as a literal connection to reality. As Paul de Man mentions in the otherwise extremely theoretical essay, “The Rhetoric of Temporality”:

Thus it would be difficult to assert that in the poems of Holderlin,¨ the island Patmos, the river Rhine, or, more generally, the landscapes and places that are described in the beginnings of the poems would be symbolic landscapes or entities that represent, as by analogy, the spiritual truths that appear in the more abstract parts of the text. To state this would be to misjudge the literality of these passages, to ignore that they derive their considerable poetic authority from the fact that they are not synechdoches designating a totality of which they are a part, but are themselves already this totality. 42

Poetry distinguishes itself from philosophy not merely through its use of metaphorical language but also through its presentation of various kinds of objects merely as themselves – poems contain literal landscapes, encompass actual totalities, and constitute themselves as real poems in metrical and temporal dimensions. The resolution of the Greece-Hesperia dialectic is not further abstraction but the poetry itself: actual poetry, written in a particular time and place, modern Hesperia or Germany. Holderlin’s¨ Greece-Hesperia dialectic therefore does not necessarily lose its meaning in an endless series of unstable binary terms if read against the background of the unavoidable constraints of historical and material circumstance. A poet does not become a poet only in theory but when his or her poetry is realized as the concrete manifestation of words and sounds. The poet’s vocation, therefore, is to follow the triadic na¨ıve-heroic-idealistic scheme outlined in “Wechsel der Tone”¨ in the process of composition and in the construction of his or her own identity. The Hesperian poet begins by recognizing that the naivete´ of Greek poetry reveals their fiery nature, yet

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 49

cannot be shared at this historical and cultural distance. He or she therefore must undergo a heroic act of self-positing with respect to that difference and

create an idealistic vision of this transformation in poetry. For the historical Holderlin,¨ the move from philosophy to poetry also seems to have followed this triadic pattern as he moved from philosophical to poetological prose and then began writing larger and more complex poems about this act of self-creation in sound. The nature of this vision becomes even clearer in

greatest compositions, where his creates his deutscher

three of Holderlin’s¨ Gesang.

“brod und wein,” “patmos,” and “wie wenn am feiertage”: the divine origin of deutscher gesang

Holderlin¨ has already confirmed that the self cannot merely posit itself through theory and that mere imitation cannot make anyone a poet. Instead, poets must create themselves through a combination of self- determination and divine blessing. Where, then, does the self find its origin? If the self of a poet must come from poetry, how does the poetry come into being? “Dichterberuf ” provides us with a mythology of divine inspiration, but leaves the issue of poetic creation relatively untouched. For- tunately, three major poems, “Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” explore the origins of poetry and the creation of Holderlin’s¨ idealized Hesperian music, deutscher Gesang, on both metaphorical and sur- prisingly literal levels. All three reveal a specific model of poetry as a song for a particular place and time – nineteenth-century Germany – created both in imitation of Greek forms and in contrast to the immanence of the divine in Greek religious experience. Holderlin’s¨ deutscher Gesang, there- fore, embodies the tension between Greek ideals and Hesperian longing by enacting the process of historical self-awareness. Holderlin’s¨ imitation of Greek models occurs on the most concrete level, in form; his adaptation of Greek meter in “Brod und Wein” remains one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of the German language. This poem, one of Holderlin’s¨ finest and most famous, follows a strict triadic metrical pattern in close imitation of Pindar: eighteen lines of hexameter in nine strophes in clear groups of three; the strophes themselves contain three groups of three distichs. The first stanza opens with an image of a town at night, as its citizens return from their labors to rest:

Rings um ruhet die Stadt; still wird die erleuchtete Gasse,

Und, mit Fakeln geschmuckt,¨

rauschen die Wagen hinweg.



Deutscher Gesang

Satt gehn heim von Freuden des Tags zu ruhen die Menchen,

Und Gewinn und Verlust waget¨

ein sinniges Haupt

Wohlzufrieden zu Haus; leer steht von Trauben und Blumen,

Und von Werken der Hand ruht der geschaftige¨


Aber das Saitenspiel tont¨

Dort ein Liebendes spielt oder ein einsamer Mann Ferner Freunde gedenkt und der Jugendzeit

(StA II, p. 90)

Round us the town is at rest; the street, in pale lamplight, grows quiet And, their torches ablaze, coaches rush through and away. People go home to rest, replete with the day and its pleasures, There to weigh up in their heads, pensive, the gain and the loss, Finding the balance good; stripped bare now of grapes and of flowers, As of their hand-made goods, quiet the market stalls lie. But faint music of strings comes drifting from gardens; it could be Someone in love who plays there, could be a man all alone Thinking of distant friends, the days of his youth

fern aus Garten;¨

vieleicht, daß


Here, as in “Dichterberuf,” poetry can only enter when commerce has ceased; the strings of the lyre sound only when the citizens have an oppor- tunity for reflection. They may be in love or thinking about the past, but these thoughts only come when they have resolved their business matters. Holderlin¨ consistently uses the bard-figure as an emblem of the poet (link- ing the two most notably in “An die Parzen”) and places him at a distance from ordinary life. In addition, the movement from daily activities to night thoughts begins a series of movements throughout the poem – continuing modulations of tone and theme described in “Wechsel der Tone,”¨ in both small-scale and large-scale patterns. The second strophe begins with a personification of night, moving from the mundane cares of the city to the mysterious workings of divine blessing. Holderlin¨ does not name the personified “Night” specifically until just after these lines, but Michael Hamburger is justified in including the name earlier in the translation, for the identity of the entity being praised is clear:

Wunderbar is die Gunst der Hocherhabnen und niemand Weiß von wannen und was einem geschiehet von ihr. So bewegt sie die Welt und die hoffende Seele der Menschen, Selbst kein Weiser versteht, was sie bereitet, denn so Will es der oberste Gott, der sehr dich liebet, und darum Ist noch lieber, wie sie, dir der besonnene Tag.

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage”


Marvellous is her favour, Night’s, the exalted, and no one Knows what it is or whence comes all she does and bestows. So she works on the world and works on our souls ever hoping, Not even wise men can tell what is her purpose, for so God, the Highest, has willed, who very much loves you, and therefore Dearer even than Night reasoning Day is to you. 44

Night moves the world and our souls, despite humanity’s preference for “rea- soning day.” The gifts Night bestows on humanity are difficult to identify – inspiration cannot be quantified or assigned a specific purpose. Moreover, Night gives us creativity, “the on-rushing word” (“das stomende¨ Wort” StA, II, 91), that the day’s cares cannot. The poem has moved from rest to cel- ebration, from reflection to action, through various kinds of speech act – dedicating, granting, and blessing – to which the poet responds with songs of both the celebration of “a more daring life” and “holy remembrance” (StA, II, p. 91). The distinction between the present and the past reveals a clear con- sciousness of the difference – Holderlin¨ is by no means pretending to be

a Greek poet when he imitates Greek meter and invokes the names of

Greek places. Instead, he is defining his relationship with the Greek past in hopes of regaining what he can of their spirit. The third stanza of the poem contains nearly all the terms used in the first letter to Bohlendorff¨ to explain this relationship. A “divine fire” drives us onward to celebrate day and night; we “seek what is ours” no matter how far it may be. Despite our distance from Greece in both time and space, a “measure” remains for us always (StA, II, p. 91). After urging modern poets to make the spiritual journey to Greece, the stanza ends with a telling line: “Thence has come

and back there points the god who’s to come,” “Dorther kommt und zuruk¨ deutet der kommende Gott.” 45 The absent god is coming from Greece to Hesperia, yet pointing back toward the magnificence of the past. As in the

Bohlendorff¨ letter, the poet here defines himself through both a connection to Greece and in opposition to it, recognizing the familiar and the foreign


once. The fourth strophe begins with an insistent question and a description


ancient Greece as a series of metaphors that turn its geographical features

into a house for the gods:

Seeliges Griechenland! du Haus der Himmlischen alle, Also ist wahr, was einst wir in der Jugendgehort?¨ Festlicher Saal! der Boden ist Meer! und Tische die Berge, Wahrlich zu einzigem Brauche vor Alters gebaut!



Deutscher Gesang

Happy land of the Greeks, you house of them all, of the Heavenly, So it is true what we heard then, in the days of your youth? Festive hall, whose floor is ocean, whose tables are mountains, Truly, in time out of mind built for a purpose unique! 46

The Greek past looms large in the poet’s imagination, becoming a place

of titanic proportions, but the question, “So is it true

juvenile – a longing for reassurance that the stories we were told as children are indeed true, because we wish to recapture not only the magnificence of a lost past, but the idealism and happiness of youth. Indeed, the tables and chairs did seem larger when we were children, and Holderlin¨ has projected this childlike sense of wonder onto ancient times, conflating the youth of Western civilization with his childhood. The strophe nevertheless continues with a series of questions that intro- duce doubt and hint at disappointment, asking where the thrones, the nec- tar, and the temples have gone. The answer is clear: the land has endured, but the human institutions that celebrated the gods’ natural wonders lie in ruins. The poetry of the past is over, despite its glories, and the ceremonies and traditions that keep a culture alive have long since ceased. The present requires new inspiration, which the rest of the stanza provides in a startling echo of the Pentecost:

?” seems almost

Vater Aether! so riefs und flog von Zunge zu Zunge Tausendfach, es ertrug keiner das leben allein;

Ausgetheilet erfreut solch Gut und getauschet, mit Fremden,

Wirds ein Jubel, es wachst¨

schlafend des Wortes Gewalt

Vater! heiter! und hallt, so weit es gehet, das uralt

Zeichen, von Eltern geerbt, treffend und schaffendhinab.

Denn so kehren die Himmlischen ein, tiefschutternd¨

gelangt so

Aus den Schatten herab unter die Menschen ihr Tag.

(StA II, 1, p. 92)

Father Aether! One cried, and tongue after tongue took it up then, Thousands, no man could bear life so intense on his own; Shared, such wealth gives delight and later, when bartered with strangers, Turns to rapture; the word gather new strength when asleep:

Father! Clear light! and long resounding it travels, the ancient Sign handed down, and far, striking, creating, rings out. So do the Heavenly enter, shaking the deepest foundations Only so from the gloom down to mankind comes their Day. 47

The triadic structure of the strophe as a whole reveals a curious transforma- tion, with each part superimposing corresponding sets of images. In the first

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 53

part, a childlike perception of divinity perceives the sublime elements of nature as mere furnishings for the gods. As the poet’s perspective matures, he asks where all the wonders of that time, real and mythological, have gone, repeating “where?” with an increasing sense of loss and anxiety. Finally, “the ancient sign,” “das uralt Zeichen,”receives a renewed strength as a cry of “Father Aether!” passes from celebrant to celebrant. When the word becomes fully voiced sound, the sign becomes a reality, and the divine spirit arrives. The curious phrase “Father Aether!” contains a number of meanings and resists easy interpretation, but the poem’s emphasis on a return to a prescientific era while “reasoning day” sleeps gives us an important clue. The scientific age in which we and Holderlin¨ live (but the ancient Greeks did not) arose from the work of a number of pioneering scientists and philosophers, including Bacon, Descartes, and Newton, but Robert Boyle’s experiments with a vacuum pump late in the seventeenth century had the distinction of both establishing the experimental method and declaring that aether, or ether, the substance purported to be above the atmosphere, did not exist. 48 The cry therefore represents a desire to create a necessary connection between celestial bodies and people on earth, made in defiance of the negative logic of empiricism, which would exclude the existence of anything divine, or at the very least, any connection between day-to-day human existence and divine principles. 49 Nothing can be created, and no communion with the divine can be established, without a positive assertion of faith in the connection between the human and the divine, a connection that can only be made in the language of song and poetry. This creative language is precisely the “ancient sign” that has gained power through its absence and goes out “striking and creating” (treffend und schaffend). The Heavenly ones can only return when “reasoning day” has ended and other modes of thought and language allow them. The fifth strophe follows with the narrative of this return, a scene of surprising na¨ıvete.´ The strophe, in present tense, at first speaks of only one divine being, a Halbgott who resembles Christ as well as Bacchus; the title, “Brod und Wein,” possesses the same double meaning, with Christ as the bread of life and Bacchus the wine god combined in the bread and wine of the sacrament of communion. The description of an encounter between the Heavenly ones and humanity has its origins in Pindar but demonstrates a clear consciousness of the difference between ancient and modern times – it has been so long since their last encounter that the demigod has trouble recognizing them. Likewise, the “children of God” do



Deutscher Gesang

not immediately recognize his benevolence as they are allowed to approach in a scene echoing Christ’s injunction to allow children to come to him in Matthew 19:13:

Unempfunden kommen sie erst, es streben entgegen Ihnen die Kinder, zu hell kommet, zu blendend das Gluk,¨

Und es scheut sie der Mensch, kaum weiß zu sagen ein Halbgott, Wer mit Nahmen sie sind, die mit den Gaaben ihm nahn.

Aber der Muth von ihnen ist groß, es fullen¨

das Herz ihm

Ihre Freuden und kaum weiß er zu brauchen das Gut,

Schafft, verschwendet und fast ward ihm Unheiliges heilig,

Das er mit seegnender hand thorig¨

und gutig¨


(StA II, p. 92)

Unperceived at first they come, and only the children Surge towards them, too bright, dazzling, this joy enters in, So that men are afraid, a demigod hardly can tell yet Who they are, and name those who approach him with gifts. Yet their courage is great, his heart soon is full of their gladness And he hardly knows what’s to be done with such wealth, Busily runs and wastes it, almost regarding as sacred Trash which his blessing hand foolishly, kindly has touched. 50

The scene creates a deliberate contrast with established religious ceremonies, showing a chaotic encounter in which the celebrants cannot yet tell the sacred from the profane. This event does not commemorate; it is the event to be commemorated in itself and therefore has an awkward newness about it. Valuable gifts are wasted; the names of the celebrants remain a mystery to the demigod. Even the fact that an important event is occurring remains relatively unclear; no announcement or fanfare precedes it, and the partic- ipants arrive almost without the knowledge of the divine being they have come to celebrate. Poetry, the medium of commemoration and remembrance, therefore necessarily celebrates divine encounters belatedly and at a considerable remove. It records names that were unknown at the time; it describes the events and explains their meaning. Unfortunately, it cannot eliminate this temporal displacement; we cannot enjoy the divine beings themselves and the divine remembrance of poetry simultaneously:


Kommen sie selbst und gewohnt werden die Menschen des Gluks¨ Und des Tags und zu schaun die Offenbaren, das Antliz

dulden die Himmlischen diß; dann aber in Wahrheit

Derer, welche, schon langst¨

Eines und Alles genannt,

Tief die verschwiegene Brust mit freier Genuge¨


“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage”


Und zuerst und allein alls Verlangen beglukt;¨

So ist der Mensch; wenn da ist das Gut, and es sorget mit Gaaben

Selber ein Gott fur¨

ihn, kennet und sieht er es nicht.

Tragen muß er, zuvor; nun aber nennt er sein Liebstes,

Nun, nun mussen¨


Worte, wie Blumen, entstehn.

(StA II, 1, pp. 929)

This, while they can, the Heavenly bear with; but then they appear in Truth, in person, and now men grow accustomed to joy, And to Day, and the sight of godhead revealed, and their faces – One and All long ago, once and for all, they were named – Who with free self-content had deeply suffused silent bosoms, From the first and alone satisfied every desire. Such is man; when the wealth is there, and no less than a god in Person tends him with gifts, blind he remains, unaware. First he must suffer; but now he names his most treasured possession, Now for it words like flowers leaping alive he must find. 51

Holderlin¨ deliberately delays identifying the heavenly ones himself until the middle of the strophe as a way of recreating this belated realization because the value of direct contact with these divine beings can only be recognized in retrospect. What humanity thought to be of the most value at the time, the gifts from the gods, leaves those present blind to the greatest gift of all: the encounter itself. Even the act of naming, so important in the previous strophe, has become secondary, a repetition of what previous generations have done long ago. More important than the desire to name is the impulse to create a language for the absolute and to strive toward communion with it. This desire alone can almost make the unholy holy, because the god admires the courage of the act more than its result. Only later can words for these events emerge, emerging “like flowers,” long after the seeds of this holy encounter have been sown. This simile in the last line of the stanza, “Nun, nun mussen¨ dafur¨ Worte, wie Blumen, entstehn,” deserves further examination not merely because it contains one of the most famous images of the poem, but also because it speaks most directly to the way that poetry emerges between the na¨ıve and heroic phases the poem describes. As Paul de Man points out, the simile, which can be more literally rendered as “Now, now must words for it, like flowers, emerge,” conflates the human agency of the poet with that of nature, almost as if poetry could originate itself naturally and “become present as a natural emanation of a transcendental principle, as an epiphany.” 52 Certainly, the poet, who has not forgotten his role in this large-scale cycle of history, chooses this moment to project his own



Deutscher Gesang

creative process onto nature, thereby establishing a place for himself in the divinely created scheme of history. The imperative urgency of “now, now” enables him to posit his own self-creating identity as a poet while nevertheless explaining the origins of poetry as part of a genuinely natural process. In doing so, he solves the problem of the distance between prac- tical and theoretical self-consciousness, creating a biological explanation (poetry emerging from nature) for his subjective self. In other words, he maintains the Fichtean principle of self-origination by saying “I am I, the poet,” while simultaneously acknowledging that his poetry does not emerge from absolutely nothing but from a natural being whose role in history has been determined for him by circumstance or divine providence. Despite this confidence in the power of poetic self-origination, the sev- enth strophe signals a strange crisis of confidence. So far, metaphors for poetic creation and the power of song as deed have generally been put in positive terms, but here the poet states that poetry may well be impossible at this moment in history:

Aber Freund! wir kommen zu spat.¨

Zwar leben die Gotter,¨

Aber uber¨

dem Haupt droben in anderer Welt.

Endlos wirken sie da und scheinens wenig zu achten, Ob wir leben, so sehr schonen die Himmlischen

Donnernd kommen sie drauf. Indessen dunket¨

Besser zu schlafen, wie so ohne Genossen zu seyn, So zu harren und was zu thun indeß und zu sagen,


mir ofters¨

Weiß ich nicht und wozu Dichter in durftiger¨

Aber sie sind, sagst du, wie des Weingotts heilige Priester, Welche von Lande zu Land zogen in heiliger Nacht.

(StA II, 1, pp. 934)

But, my friend, we have come too late. Though the gods are living, Over our heads they live, up in a different world. Endlessly there they act and, such is their kind wish to spare us, Little they seem to care whether we live or do

Thundering then they come. But meanwhile too often I think it’s Better to sleep than to be friendless as we are, alone, Always waiting, and what to do or to say in the meantime I don’t know, and who wants poets at all in lean years? But they are, you say, like those holy ones, priests of the wine-god Who in holy Night roamed from one place to the next. 53

Holderlin’s¨ friend (presumably Wilhelm Heinse, to whom the poem is dedicated) is a fellow poet and sympathetic listener; Coleridge fulfills a similar role in Wordsworth’s Prelude. The overt expression of belatedness, “we come too late,” (“wir kommen zu spat”)¨ introduces a complex series

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 57

of statements regarding the relation between his own time and ancient Greece, or, on a more general level, the poet and tradition. The gods are indeed alive in another world, that is, living through tradition (poetry), yet the relationship between them and mortals may be one-sided; the poet cares about them, but do they care about him? The phrase “so sehr schonen die Himmlischen uns,” translated as “such is their kind wish to spare us,” but more literally, “so much do the Heavenly Ones care for us” presents a difficult ambiguity. Is it meant ironically, or do the gods provide their care by means which mere mortals cannot discern? The next lines imply that human inadequacy, not divine indifference, keeps them out of contact. The effect of these lean times is to make men stronger, enabling new heroes to arise and intitiate a new era of contact between the divine and the human. While the age of heroes has passed, it will return, yet Holderlin¨ feels that we have arrived too late rather than too early. This poetry, therefore, is the dream of those times, past or present, and the task of the poet is to overcome historical time, to bring the gods to these needy times through their representation in poetry. In this way, poetry almost becomes more than representation, and the poet’s dream a kind of reality; the poetry mediates between the gods and mortals in these times, becoming a heroic act in itself and preparing for the transition to the ideal. The poet attempts to become both priest and hero, and the poem both deed and representation of a deed, but for now, that union may be unattainable. Yet, as Holderlin¨ says, “wozu Dichter in durftiger¨ Zeit?” What, indeed, are poets for in these needful times? This famous line asks us to consider what has changed to make this idealized form of poetry so impossible to realize. To some extent, the problem is that in this age, our poetry lacks real music. In ancient Greece, no difference existed between poetry and music; Homeric bards created both with voice and lyre. Pindar, whom Holderlin¨ admired greatly and used as a model, wrote both the words and the music for his compositions; what we read of his poetry today bears the same relation to his original compositions as a libretto does to the performance of an opera. The poet of “Dichterberuf” speaks of poetry “immerneu besungen”; in these needy times, singing must wait until a full communion with the gods is possible. The poetry of these times is a dream of the eventual performance of poetry, the enactment of poetry which will do something. As mere writing on paper and enclosed in mute books, poetry does nothing but cause private thought in a single reader – and some seven types of ambiguity. The recitation of poetry reaches the gods’ ears, becomes a blessing, a celebration – in other words, its performance becomes, in J. L. Austin’s words, “a performative utterance,” a statement that is itself an action. 54 As the metrical element of poetry, its sound and



Deutscher Gesang

rhythm, restores the lost music of the Greeks, its lexical sense recreates their blessed condition, when they communed with the gods.

words in the last strophe of “Brod und Wein” therefore

function as a kind of prophecy:


Was der Alten Gesang von Kindern Gottes geweissagt,

Siehe! wir sind es, wir; Frucht von Hesperien ists! Wunderbar und genau ists als an Menschen erfullet,¨

Glaube, wer es gepruft!¨

aber so vieles geschieht,

Keines wirket, denn wir sind herzlos, Schatten, bis unser Vater Aether erkannt jeden und allen gehort.¨ Aber indessen kommt als Fakelschwinger des Hochsten¨ Sohn, der Syrier, unter die Schatten herab.

Seelige Weise sehns; ein Lacheln¨

aus der gefangnen

Seele leuchtet, dem Licht thauet ihr Auge noch auf.

Sanfter traumet¨

und schlaft¨

in Armen der Erde der Titan,

Selbst der neidische, selbst Cerberus trinket und schlaft.¨

(StA II, 1, p. 95)

What of the children of God was foretold in the songs of the ancients, Look, we are it, ourselves; fruit of Hesperia it is! Strictly it has come true, fulfilled as in men by a marvel, Let those who have seen it believe! Much, however, occurs, Nothing succeeds, because we are heartless, mere shadows until our Father Aether, made known, recognized, fathers us all. Meanwhile, though to us shadows comes the Son of the Highest, Comes the Syrian and down into our gloom bears his torch. Blissful, the wise men see it; in souls that were captive there gleams a Smile, and their eyes shall yet thaw in response to the light. Dreams more gentle and sleep in the arms of Earth lull the Titan, Even that envious one, Cerberus, drinks and lies down. 55

The poets of Hesperia are those who come to fulfill the prophecy of the “old songs,” the fruit of a particular time and place. However, these songs, their predictions, and the entire cycle of history that encompasses them are Holderlin’s¨ own creation; the fictional Father Aether’s ability to give living flesh and hearts to the shadows of German poetry is really a reflection of Holderlin’s¨ own poetic power, generated by faith in divine inspiration. At the center of “Brod und Wein” is a clear and distinct vision of the poet: an autonomous subject who has acquired self-consciousness through poetry and whose words allow this self-consciousness to have real existence when poetry once again becomes song. When night falls, ending the reasoning day and allowing song to replace other, more rational modes of discourse, the terrible guardian of the border between the living and the dead, Cerberus,

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 59

sleeps, and allows us to commune with the Greeks, however briefly. As in other moments in Holderlin’s¨ poetry where words, signs, and songs are invoked, Holderlin¨ solves the problem of being by ascribing the power of self-origination to his melopoetic language, that is, language that is both sign and sound, at once linguistic and material. The opening lines of “Patmos” likewise reveal Holderlin’s¨ attempt to span the distance between ancient Greece and our own needful times, where an additional dialectical opposition between danger and salvation emerges:

Nah ist

Und schwer zu fassen der Gott. Wo aber Gefahr ist, wachst¨ Das Rettende auch. Im Finstern wohnen Die Adler und furchtlos gehn

Die Sohne¨

Auf leichtgebaueten Bruken.¨

Drum, da gehauft¨

Die Gipfel der Zeit, und die Liebsten Nah wohnen, ermattend auf Getrenntesten Bergen,

der Alpen uber¨

sind rings

den Abgrund weg


gieb unschuldig Wasser,


Fittige gieb uns, treuesten Sinns


So sprach ich

und wiederzukehren.

(StA II, 1, p. 165)

Near is And difficult to grasp, the God. But where danger threatens

That which saves from also grows.

In gloomy places dwell

The eagles, and fearless over The chasm walk the sons of the Alps On bridges lightly built.

Therefore, since round about Are heaped the summits of Time

And the most loved live near, growing faint On mountains most separate, Give us innocent water,

O pinions give us, with minds most faithful

To cross over and return.

So I spoke




Deutscher Gesang

The “peaks of time” embody a transformation of chronological distance to geographical distance, which in “Patmos” takes on particular significance

because of the position of the island of Patmos between Europe and Asia and its role as both in the Greek world and in the beginning of Christianity. The

last two lines of the first strophe, “O pinions give us

return,” reinforce the identification of the poet’s vocation and the crossing of this distance between ourselves, in these times, and the gods, in the mythological past. The gods are indeed near, not hopelessly lost in the past or in heaven, and the abyss between them can be crossed. The phrase schwer zu fassen, “difficult to grasp,” plays on the literal and figurative meanings of the word fassen; it is both “to grasp,” meaning “to touch” and thereby “to

determine the concrete reality of an object,” and “to understand,” a term usually applied to things that can never be touched in reality. In this case, both normally mutually exclusive meanings of fassen become exactly the opposite; the word is meant in both senses simultaneously: the gods are both difficult to understand and to touch. What connects these issues of abstract and concrete is the subtext of “Patmos,” the place the island itself has in the history of Christianity as the island on which John received the Revelation. Patmos itself is the concrete

element of John’s text (“I, John

Revelation 1:9), the literal basis for a text for which reading involves the conversion of figurative events into literal history, that of the end of the world. To grasp the meaning of Revelation, that is, to comprehend its abstract and literal meanings simultaneously, is indeed to fly over an abyss, into which the world of reality falls at the end of time, when the literal end of the world and its figurative prophecy in Revelation become the same thing. 57

In view of this radical collapse in the distinction between literal and figurative, several complex questions concerning the problem of self- consciousness arise. What effect does the beginning of the next strophe (So sprach ich) have on the rhetorical status of the first strophe? If the dream described in “Brod und Wein” and the “lightly built bridges” of line seven of “Patmos” are metaphors for an idealized poetry, what is the status of self-consciousness in a poem in which this activity itself is described? Karlheinz Stierle perceives this moment between invocation and quotation in “Patmos” as a release from “isolation and separation, which is the law of the historical moment” 58 and interprets this as another of a series of motions from far to near. In this instance, the difference between chrono- logical distance and geographic distance is one of rhetorical level, whether

/To cross over and

was on an island called Patmos


“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 61

one takes “far” and “near” as geographic distance (between Greece and Western Europe) or as chronological distance (between the fifth century b.c.e. and the nineteenth century c.e.). In both cases, the poet is a figure of mediation, and poetry an act of crossing. This paradox of divine will and self-determination becomes even more vivid in relation to his theory of poetic language, which Holderlin¨ addresses in one of his most difficult passages, the last strophe of “Patmos”:

Zu lang, zu lang schon ist

Die Ehre der Himmlischen unsichtbar.

Denn fast die Finger mussen¨

Uns fuhren¨

Entreißt das Herz uns eine Gewalt.

Denn Opfer will der Himmlischen jedes,

Wenn aber eines versaumt¨ Nie hat es Gutes gebracht.

Wir haben gedienet der Mutter Erd’

Und haben jungst¨

Unwissend, der Vater aber liebt,

Der uber¨

Am meisten, daß gepfleget werde Der veste Buchstab, und bestehendes gut Gedeutet. Dem folgt deutscher Gesang.

(StA II, 1, pp. 1712)

Too long, too long now

The honour of the Heavenly has been invisible. For almost they must guide Our fingers, and shamefully

A power is wresting our hearts from us.

For every one of the Heavenly wants sacrifices, and When one of these was omitted No good ever came of it. We have served Mother Earth And lately have served the sunlight, Unwittingly, but what the Father Who reigns over all loves most

Is that the solid letter

Be given scrupulous care, and the existing Be well interpreted. This German song observes. 59

Poetry requires sacrifice, yet nothing can be omitted; the poetry of this age must be all-encompassing, preserving the world of the Greeks yet aware of the present. A mysterious force tears at the poet’s heart; the difficulty


und schmalich¨


dem Sonnenlichte gedient,

allen waltet,



Deutscher Gesang

of his task is so great that the divine must almost lead his fingers. Still, the word “almost” (fast) leaves open the role of the individual will in the process. The poet, one of many included in the “we” in the second half of the strophe, suffers precisely because his poetry must come from his own

self-consciousness. The highest service of the divine involves caring for the “firm letter,” Der veste Buchstab, of the belated age of written preservation of what has previously been sung; it encompasses both the universe as it really is, and the principles behind it indicated in the greatest poetry already existing. The final words of the poem attest to the success of the poet’s mission; “This German song observes” (“Dem folgt deutscher Gesang”) confirms that the German poetry follows the example of the Greeks and sings in its own language. Holderlin’s¨ faithfulness to this poetic program, despite its inherent diffi-

culties, reveals itself in “Wie wenn am Feiertage

a fragmentary poem that begins as a strict metrical imitation of Pindaric

odes, 60 but breaks off suddenly in several exclamations of distress. However, this fragment provides an interesting and unusual moment of perspective on the poet’s accomplishments. Unlike “Friedensfeier” or “Brod und Wein,” ”

“Wie wenn am Feiertage

but provides a metaphorical distance from the act of celebration through an extended and balanced simile, where the first stanza begins with the word wie, (“as”) and the second stanza follows with the corresponding so:

.” (“As on a Holiday


does not itself celebrate a moment or event

Wie wenn am Feiertage, das Feld zu sehn Ein Landmann geht, des Morgens, wenn

Aus heißer Nacht die kuhlenden¨

Die ganze Zeit und fern noch tonet¨

Blize fielen

der Donner

So stehn sie unter gunstiger¨


Sie die kein Meister allein, die wunderbar


Die machtige,¨

erzieht in leichtem Umfangen

die gottlichsch¨



(StA II, 1, p. 118)

As on a holiday, to see the field

A countryman goes out, at morning, when

Out of hot night the cooling flashes had fallen For hours on end, and thunder still rumbles afar

So now in favourable weather they stand Whom no mere master teaches, but in

A light embrace, miraculously omnipresent,

God-like in power and beauty, Nature brings up. 61

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 63

The two stanzas juxtapose the cultivator, a human agent, with the weather, a natural force, to establish a dialectical opposition between humanity and nature based on mutual benefit. The Landmann, a farmer, observes his fields the day after a storm, noting how order has been restored, enabling new seeds to sprout, following a natural process that he has nonetheless assisted and organized. The Feiertag is a day of contemplation and rest for the farmer as natural processes take over, creating new life from his labor. The poem contains abundant references to images of change upheaval that Holderlin¨ used in other poems, yet in this instance, these entities have come to some kind of resolution. The lightning is already past, not striking in the present (as it does in “Dichterberuf”); the grapes are still on the vine, not yet transformed into wine to be drunk in celebration (as in “Brod und Wein”); the river has returned to its banks, no longer overflowing in confusion (as in “Der Rhein”). Like the Landmann, the poet can rest from normal duties and contemplate his accomplishments, which have been transformed from moments of action, creation, and performance into a natural landscape. The poet, like the farmer, mediates natural and artificial processes, wisely knowing when to intervene or to rest. The pronoun “they” (Sie) who “seem to be alone” refers to the new plants of the farmer’s land, both objects of the farmer’s cultivation and natural, living beings. Poetry, like farming, requires alternating times of dormancy and growth, along with a reliance on natural processes of renewal. This celebration of spring returns with a new dawn, and the poet’s sudden exclamation abruptly changes the poem’s tone, completing the triadic structure by uniting the poet’s efforts with nature’s:

Jetz aber tagts! Ich harrt und sah es kommen, Und was ich sah, das Heilige sei mein Wort.

Denn sie, sie selbst, die alter¨

denn die Zeiten

Und uber¨

Die Natur ist jezt mit Waffenklang erwacht, Und hoch vom Aether bis zum Abgrund nieder

Nach vestem Geseze, wie einst, aus heiligem Chaos gezeugt,


Die Allerschaffende wieder.

(StA II, 1, p. 118)

But now day breaks! I waited and saw it come, And what I saw, the hallowed, my word shall convey, For she, she herself, who is older than the ages And higher than the gods of Orient and Occident,

die Gotter¨

des Abends und Orients ist,

neu die Begeisterung sich,



Deutscher Gesang

Nature has now awoken amid the clang of arms, And from high Aether down to the low abyss, According to fixed law, begotten, as in the past, on holy Chaos, Delight, the all-creative, Delights in self-renewal. 62

Here, a broad and continuous view of the universe, from its highest to its lowest levels, reveals everything to be in its proper place after the chaos of the storm the night before. Holderlin¨ uses a rare Ich to insert his activity into the poem, along with an odd shift to the subjunctive, “Und was ich sah, das Heilige sei mein Wort,” (“And what I saw, the hallowed, my word shall convey”). Hamburger’s translation of the subjunctive of sein, sei, (“to be”) does not adequately emphasize the force of the poet’s statement – his vision has made him capable of making his word holy merely by uttering it. All renewal here is self-renewal, the poetic version of the Fichtean “I am I,” a creation of the self-as-poet through the performative statement. This poetic inspiration is not only holy, but also heroic, as the poem changes tone once again toward the heroic in the fourth strophe with another extended simile:

Und wie im Aug’ ein Feuer dem Manne glanzt,¨ Wenn hohes er entwarf; so ist

Von neuem an dem Zeichen, den Thaten der Welt jezt

Ein Feuer angezundet¨

in Seelen der Dichter.

(StA II, 1, p. 119)

And as a fire gleams in the eye of that man Who has conceived a lofty design, Once more by the tokens, the deeds of the world now A fire has been lit in the souls of the poets. 63

A revealing chiasmus occurs in the course of the simile: the fire in the eye of the hero becomes a fire in the souls of the poets. Usually, poets have visions of fire, whereas heroes have fire in the soul; the association between vision and poetic creation as well as that between fiery spirits and heroic action is well established in tradition. Moreover, two terms are used in apposition which normally appear as opposites: dem Zeichen and den Thaten, the sign and the deeds. Together, these reversals indicate that language and action are somehow interchangeable. Renate Boschenstein-Sch¨ afer¨ has examined a similar collapsing of the distinction between sign and deed in several of Holderlin’s¨ late fragments and correctly concludes that making these ele- ments interchangeable is an essential part of Holderlin’s¨ poetics – that is, what is usually considered the domain of empirical reality becomes

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 65

a system of signification, and poetic language gains both a physical and historical reality. 64 In a sense, Holderlin¨ takes Goethe’s famous rewriting of the beginning of the Gospel of St. John in Faust one step further – he not only substitutes Tat for Wort, but also does the reverse as well, making words into deeds. The next two stanzas describe how song springs forth as “thoughts of the communal spirit” (“Des gemeinsamen Geistes Gendanken” StA, II, 1, p. 119), the result of a joyous union of gods and men, as when Bacchus was born from the lightning that struck Semele. However, Holderlin¨ cannot sustain this joyous assertion of divine order for long; the poem breaks off in sudden despair soon after these lines with the words “Weh mir!,” “My shame!” Perfect order in poetry is perhaps too large a task for Holderlin,¨ as is such a large perspective on the universal order. In either real or metaphorical terms, the burden of following Pindar’s meter and describing the position of the poet in the universe and in history became overwhelming. Holderlin¨ must break off because, as he asserts in so many other poems, he is too late, it is winter, and it is the wrong time in the cycle of history. The last stanzas of the poem indicate an overwhelming crisis occurring at precisely the moment the poet comes closest to divine inspiriation:

Doch uns gebuhrt¨

Haupte zu stehen

Des Vaters Stral, ihn selbst, mit eigner Hand Zu fassen und dem Volk ins Lied


Denn sind nur reinen Herzens, Wie Kinder, wir, sind schuldlos unsere Hande,¨

Des Vaters Stral, der reine versengt es nicht

Und tief erschuttert,¨

Mitleidend, bleibt in den hochhersturzenden¨

Des Gottes wenn er nahet, das Herz doch fest Doch weh mir! wenn von

Weh mir!

es, unter Gottes Gewittern,

Ihr Dichter! mit entbloßtem¨

die himmlische Gaabe zu reichen.

die Leiden des Starkeren,¨


(StA II, 1, pp. 11920)

Yet, fellow poets, us it behooves to stand Bare-headed beneath God’s thunderstorms, To grasp the Father’s ray, no less, with out own two hands And, wrapping in song the heavenly gift, To offer it to the people. For if only we are pure in heart, Like children, and our hands are guiltless,



Deutscher Gesang

The Father’s ray, the pure, will not sear our hearts And, deeply convulsed, and sharing his sufferings Who is stronger than we are, yet in the far-flung down-rushing storms of The God, when he draws near, will the heart stand fast. But, oh, my shame! when of

My shame! 65

Although the drama of this abrupt break is striking, few commentators discuss it. 66 After what has been a measured series of transitions from

general descriptions of the process of becoming a poet to a personal history of that process, the poem abruptly leaps to an unprecedented rhetorical level that has not appeared before, that of the cry of pain. The effect is even more startling in the contrast that this outburst makes with the metric imitation of Pindar of the preceding verses. Interpretation of this strange moment presents several textual difficul- ties as well. Like the vast majority of Holderlin’s¨ poems, “Wie wenn am

.” was never published during his lifetime, and its manuscript


cannot be considered fair copy. One one hand, it is undisputedly a frag- ment – a second abrupt break at the end of the text, several indications from a prose sketch, as well as the interruption of the formal structure provide overwhelming evidence that Holderlin¨ intended to write more than he did

here. 67 On the other hand, whatever fragments remain are nevertheless part of the text, and subject to interpretation. The final lines show a surprising consciousness of the poet’s difficulties, and indicate that every word may indeed count:

Und sag ich gleich,

Ich sei genaht, die Himmlischen zu schauen, Sie selbst, sie werfen mich tief unter die Lebenden Den falscher Priester, ins Dunkel, daß ich Das warnende Lied den Gelehringen singe. Dort

(StA II, 1, p. 120)

And let me say at once That I approached to see the Heavenly, And they themselves cast me down, deep down Below the living, into the dark cast down The false priest that I am, to sing, For those who have ears to hear, the warning song. There 68

“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 67

The last strophe, relating the punishment of the poet for attempting to come too close to divinity, serves as an explanation for the cry of “Weh mir!” which, as well as the line “Und sag ich gleich,” essentially makes the earlier stanzas a kind of quotation, forcing the reader to reconsider the status and time frame of the previous lines, as well as the location of the speaker. This sudden chronological and temporal removal, similar to that of “Patmos,” transforms the entire poem into “das warnende Lied,” which breaks off with the word which explains the poet’s loss of voice, “there” (Dort). The poet’s location in both time and space, here in the fallen Hes- perian world, determines his fate as a poet, whether he succeeds or fails. Holderlin¨ has constructed a system in which the poet’s vocation, poetic language, and finally poetry itself manifest themselves as a combination of self-consciousness and divine will. Holderlin’s¨ insistence that what he has become was not determined by him, but for him, disguises his role as the originator of the poetic world he creates, and reveals that his words originate not in the natural world but in his mind as the perception of this role as the mediator between the Greeks and the Hesperians, and the gods and mankind. In song, this idea becomes reality: the word becomes deed. Whether the poet celebrates in triumph or falls into an abyss, he has created his own self-consciousness in song, leaving behind the strictures of philosophy, free to commune with the divine, or fall into despair.

chapter 3

Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material

Music performs on the clavichord within us which is our own inmost being.

– J. G. Herder 1

In March of 1830 , the year before his death, G. W. F. Hegel, by then the rector of the University of Berlin and a celebrated philosopher, met Princess Marianne of Hesse-Homburg, the wife of the crown prince of Prussia. The princess was the daughter of the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, for whom Holderlin¨ had written “Patmos.” In her diary, Princess Marianne records that she asked Hegel about Isaac von Sinclair, a friend to both Hegel and Holderlin¨ from their Tubingen¨ days, and received a curious response: “At that point, he [Hegel] began to speak of Holderlin,¨ whom the world has A whole lost past went through me.” 2 The Tubinger¨ Freunde had long dispersed and Hegel had essentially given up on Holderlin¨ as hopelessly mad in 1803 when Schelling wrote to him about their friend’s worsening condition. 3 Suddenly, the mention of a friend’s name brought Holderlin¨ to Hegel’s mind, along with the plans they had made long ago in Jena, Frankfurt, and Homburg. The “lost past” mentioned by Princess Marianne refers to the time immediately after the French Revolution that had raised fleeting hopes for reform before Napoleon ravaged Europe and released the forces that would control European politics for the rest of the nineteenth century. It also refers to the period in Hegel’s life when a project like the one described in the Systemprogramm fragment seemed worth considering and even possible. Princess Marianne’s question did not elicit remembrances of Sinclair himself but of Holderlin,¨ whom the world had indeed forgotten, but Hegel, clearly, had not. This incident represents in microcosm the project Hegel had been con- tinuing for over a decade: the assimilation of aesthetics into his overall philosophy. In 1818, while still at Heidelberg, Hegel gave his first series of lectures on aesthetics and later delivered revised and expanded versions of


Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material 69

the course at Berlin in 18201, 1823, 1826, and 18289. By the end, attendance at Hegel’s aesthetic lectures became almost mandatory for anyone inter- ested in culture; many observers even preserved their notes for posterity. 4 In a sense, Hegel’s Berlin lectures represented an attempt to accomplish the promise of the Systemprogramm fragment in mature form. What had begun as a new and final system of metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics summed up in a few pages – no matter who had really composed the document – had become a life-long project of organizing human knowledge within the intellectual framework of philosophy and the institutional framework of the university. Hegel had essentially replaced the revolutionary stance of the Systemprogramm fragment and its bold ambition to create a “new mythol- ogy” with an understanding of all previous knowledge as part of the gradual realization of truth over time. As Hegel turned more frequently toward the arts, both for his own edification and as the subject of his lectures, he saw his philosophical principles demonstrated in them and articulated their posi- tion within his system in increasingly detailed terms. Although the results of this extraordinary project were not always felicitious, 5 Hegel’s aesthetic theory remains one of the most enduring applications of his speculative philosophy to actual objects, regarding both continuing interest and con- temporary relevance. In particular, his views of music depend on a concept of musical meaning as a manifestation of self-consciousness. Later, however, he went on to deny music’s ability to represent self-consciousness, so that philosophy, rather than art, could maintain its primary position within his overall system. Reconciling the theoretical aspect of Hegel’s views on aesthetics with his practice of aesthetic judgment and interpretation has not been an easy task for scholars. Anne-Marie Gethmann-Siefert’s recent assessment shows many devoted Hegelians at a loss in their attempt to derive a coherent position encompassing Hegel’s theoretical claims and his actual encounters with the artistic world. 6 By comparing the printed edition of the aesthetic lectures with the notes of those who actually attended, she has come to the conclusion that the editor of the best-known printed version, H. G. Hotho, added many – if not all – of the examples and particular aesthetic judgments in the text. 7 Moreover, the most famous statement in the lec- tures, “art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past,” 8 seems oddly nostalgic and pessimistic in a system that gen- erally views culture as progressive. Even Hegel’s most devoted students at the time found this claim difficult to accept, provoking many notorious misunderstandings. 9 Like Hegel himself, the lectures on aesthetics contain many contradictions, not all of which can, or even should, be resolved.


Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material

A completely coherent Hegel would undoubtedly be an idealized fiction; a

completely incoherent or disingenuous version of the philosopher – or his

editor, for that matter – would probably be a misrepresentation as well. Here, I plan to continue tracing the connection between Idealist ver-

sions of self-consciousness and the aesthetics of music and poetry. Doing

so involves examining precisely where and how Hegel varied from his prede-

cessors on both self-consciousness and aesthetics and restoring the context of his aesthetic theory and artistic judgments, however compromised by editorial interference. I argue that Hegel’s views of poetry and music, as key elements in his general aesthetic theory, reflect an attempt to reconcile the Romantic accounts of aesthetic experience current in 1820s Berlin with the manifestation of self-consciousness that he had so diligently described in his philosophy. However, any discussion of the relationship between these two major elements in Hegel’s thought must begin with an examination of the reliability and context of the most disputed text, Hotho’s version of the Lectures on Aesthetics and its relationship with the more recently published transcription of the 1823 lectures.

hegel’s aesthetic lectures: origin and context

Few works of philosophical aesthetics approach the scale and ambition of Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, which takes both a systematic and historical approach to its subject. The text explains the existence and history of art according to two central principles: that an artwork is the external particularization of the idea of beauty for sensuous apprehension and that the creation and contemplation of art is an act of self-reflection by means of the sensuous material of the artwork. Hegel’s proof and explication of these principles encompass the historical development of artistic modes,

as well as detailed descriptions of different media, with examples ranging

from the sculpture of ancient Egypt and Greece to the poems of Goethe and Schiller. A study of a philosophical work of this large a scope would be daunt- ing enough even if one could be absolutely sure of the text. The Lec- tures on Aesthetics, edited by a H. G. Hotho, a devoted student, rather than by Hegel himself, is not a single written treatise but a transcrip- tion of oral lectures delivered in various university courses over several years. Despite their piecemeal origin, the lectures are remarkably coherent; their consistency and symmetry have even been cited as reasons to doubt their authenticity as Hegel’s own work. Until recently, most readers have believed Hotho’s claim that he provided a faithful transcription of Hegel’s

Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 71

own words. 10 However, Anne-Marie Gethmann-Siefert has matched her continuing efforts to examine the validity of Hotho’s text, as noted earlier, with her determination to collect and publish versions of the lectures based on other sources. Her recent publication of Hotho’s transcript of the 1823 Berlin lectures reveals many parallels with the more questionable but far more complete version Hotho originally published, especially on the most controversial points. Nevertheless, the text of the Lectures on Aesthetics, as originally pub- lished and reprinted in the collected works of Hegel since Hotho’s first edition of 1835, represents more than the vaguely filtered, and perhaps adulterated, views of the philosopher. The work has a long history of its own that inevitably contributes to our understanding of it. However compromised it may be, this edition represents what has been considered Hegel’s thoughts for almost two centuries and as Stephen Bungay notes, will remain “an important historical document in its own right,” no mat- ter how discredited. 11 It is also indicative of what a group of devoted and knowledgeable students – not just Hotho – understood as Hegel’s views, rigorously and systematically applied to their cultural surroundings. Many who had attended the same lectures would be in a position to reveal any variation from at least the spirit, if not the letter, of Hegel’s words. More- over, many more readers of Hotho’s edition already knew other works by Hegel well and would also recognize variations in style and thought. I therefore treat the text, with certain reservations, as both indicative of a particular development in the history of philosophy and aesthetic thought and as representative of a cultural moment. Comparisons of the more recent reconstruction of Hegel’s 1823 lectures will undoubtedly create a more secure understanding of what parts of the Lectures on Aesthetics are truly Hegel’s words and thoughts. I consider striving for authenticity in this regard to be of secondary importance to the examination of Hegelian thought on aesthetics overall.

hegelian self-consciousness and art

Hegel had addressed the problem of art and the category of the aesthetic long before he began lecturing on them, but the connection between his highly developed positions on art in the Berlin lectures and his earlier writings on metaphysics does not become clear unless examined in the context of Hegel’s predecessors. Self-consciousness, as I explained in the introductory chapter, was the central issue of Idealist philosophy, yet no description of the concept had yet presented itself as entirely adequate until


Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material

Hegel published The Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807. Despite Schelling’s claims, 12 Hegel’s theory of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology repre- sents a significant departure from all previous theories and solves some of the recurring problems in the works of his predecessors. When Hegel began work on the Phenomenology early in the nine- teenth century, theories of self-consciousness had reached an impasse between theory and practice, or, as Holderlin¨ formulated it, between judgment and being. (It is unlikely that Hegel read Holderlin’s¨ fragmen-

tary essay.) Schelling’s solution to the infinitely regressive series of posit- ing self-consciousness to have experience yet needing experience to posit self-consciousness, was the Selbstobjektwerden, the “self-becoming-object.” However, this abstract entity does not seem to correspond to any real, intu- itive experience of self-consciousness and does not necessarily resolve the problem of infinite regression: the point at which one posits the Selbstob- jektwerden is ultimately arbitrary. Hegel’s solution, as described in the Phenomenology, requires a different kind of logic; he consequently defines the discourse of philosophy somewhat differently from that of his predecessors. Kant’s main works take the form of Kritik, that is, critical commentary on processes external to the works themselves; Fichte’s Wissenschaftlehre is, ostensibly, a science of knowing –

a method; Schelling’s philosophy is clearly named a system. Hegel calls

his work a “phenomenology,” simultaneously a description of a process that actually took place as a phenomenon, and a logical examination of the workings of that process. By coining this term, Hegel describes the process

of coming to self-consciousness as both historical and retrospective: both the narrative of becoming self-conscious and the understanding of one’s own consciousness emerge from knowing that history. By specifically addressing the problem of self-consciousness in the form

of a phenomenology, Hegel confronts the division between theory and prac-

tice directly. Self-consciousness is not a theoretical construct that somehow leaps into the practice of individuals and then into humanity as a whole;

it is the practice of becoming self-conscious and understanding oneself as

such. According to Hegel, this process of becoming self-conscious follows a familiar progression: it begins with mere “consciousness” (the initial aware- ness of the perception of an external object, or sense-certainty) followed by a complex manifestation of self-consciousness itself, which develops out of the knowledge of one’s own existence. Kant and Fichte had exam- ined the moment of sense-certainty extensively but had not extended their theories of self-consciousness into the social realm, as Hegel does in the famous “Lordship and Bondage” section of the Phenomenology. As Andrzej

Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 73

Warminski astutely observes, Hegel does not see sense-certainty as a simple or definite beginning of self-consciousness. Sense-certainty is not merely an epistemological moment but instead the particular moment in ontol- ogy that becomes a central issue in the act of defining “sense-certainty” itself:

If the answer to the question “What is sense-certainty?” reads “Sense-certainty is (its own) history,” this answer calls for a double reading – by us and by sense- certainty – and a rewriting of both question and answer. In spite of (or rather

because of) its rhetoric of being and nothing (nichts anders als

which echoes the first sentence, this answer forces us to reread Being – the “is,”

the copula – and thus the truth of sense-certainty. That is, Being – as object and

as subject – has turned out to be the name

in order not to mean nothing, to distinguish itself from nothing, has to be thought

as mediated, as having and being a history. 13

nichts anders als),

of an empty abstraction


Just as Holderlin¨ rightly asked, “How can I say I! without self-con- sciousness?” Hegel implicitly asks, “How can I say what sense-certainty ‘is’ – without knowing what ‘is’ means and how it operates?” Furthermore, knowing the meaning of “is” or “being” requires knowing its history, that is, the history of asking the question and the understanding that existence takes place in the dimension of time. (Sense-certainty is not certain until the terms of the “I” and “not-I” have been confirmed by the self-conscious “I,” as I discussed earlier.) Hegel therefore turns Kant’s synthetic unity of apper- ception, the deduction of the self as having continuous experiences over time, into a recursive cycle of sensation, self-consciousness, and retrospec- tive perception. The “I” is always in the process of becoming a self-conscious “I” by synthesizing different kinds of experience, but the experiences are only distinguishable after the “I” has acquired self-consciousness. Therefore, the problem of being, as mere existence of the subject and the object, is not the differentiation between being and not-being but the triadic relation of being, not-being, and becoming. This pattern of posit- ing, negation, and sublation, or Aufhebung, appears constantly in Hegel’s writings, in both his larger works and as a logical principle in his overall phi- losophy. Although Schelling perceived the traces of the Selbstobjektwerden in this pattern, the progression of Geist, Hegel’s name for the collective and individual spirit that comes to self-consciousness and absolute knowledge in the Phenomenology (usually rendered in English as “Sprit”), takes a pro- gressive rather than a regressive path, in contrast to the Selbstobjektwerden. As Hegel made even clearer in the Science of Logic of 181216, this version of self-consciousness, in contrast to that of his predecessors, satisfies both its


Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material

logical and ontological demands by accounting for the both the inference of self-consciousness and the existence of the subject. 14 Hegel’s assertion that a universal Spirit comes to self-consciousness in the actual world, uniting the theory and practice of self-consciousness, remains perhaps the single greatest source of misunderstanding in his works. Many sophisticated critics and philosophers have fallen into the trap of creat- ing a purely anthropological or psychological version of this theory, treat- ing the Phenomenology as an account, however farfetched, of the work- ings of individual consciousness; perhaps an equal number of critics have treated it as a purely cultural description or taken Hegel’s claims to signify a strange kind of pantheism. However, Hegel himself tells his readers how the Phenomenology manages to be both and neither, explaining the necessity of the text’s particular task:

The task of leading the individual from his uneducated standpoint to knowledge had to be seen in its universal sense, just as it was the universal individual, self- conscious Spirit, whose formative education had to be studied. As regards the relation between them, every moment, as it gains concrete form and a shape of its own, displays itself in the universal individual. 15

To mistake the Phenomenology for a purely theoretical, psychological, or historical-cultural text means more than missing one of its aspects; it means missing the point entirely: self-consciousness is itself the history of Spirit becoming self-conscious and actual. Hegel makes a useful analogy to illus- trate this essential point a few sentences later:

Thus, as far as factual information is concerned, we find that what in former ages engaged the attention of men of mature mind, has been reduced to the level of facts,

exercises, and even games for children; and, in the child’s progress through school, we shall recognize the history of the cultural development of the world traced, as

In this respect, formative education, regarded from the

side of the individual, consists in his acquiring what thus lies at hand, devouring his inorganic nature, and taking possession of it for himself. But, regarded from the side of universal Spirit as substance, this is nothing but its own acquisition

it were, in a

of self-consciousness, the bringing-about of its own becoming and reflection into itself. 16

The acquisition of purely factual knowledge followed by self-reflection forms the self-conscious character of the individual, and represents part of the overall development of civilization as it, too, becomes increasingly self-conscious in the course of history. No meaningful distinction exists between the theoretical and practical sides of Hegel’s description of self- consciousness. Self-consciousness cannot occur merely as the positing of

Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 75

an individual self in an encounter with an individual object, because this encounter can only yield self-consciousness for that entity as part of a larger whole that includes all conscious individuals. Hegel asserts that a theoretical description of self-consciousness cannot make sense as theory; no adequate description of self-consciousness can exist without the subject-object dis- tinction, and no object functions as such unless it is an actual, practical object. Hegel thereby reverses the priority of the concepts that Schelling had described – in Hegel’s version of self-consciousness, the subject does not become an object to provide the system with an absolute standpoint of knowledge, but instead, the object in the theoretical subject-object relation becomes a real, practical object, enabling the theoretical subject to enter the historical world. The path of Spirit toward Absolute Knowledge in the course of the Phenomenology thus leads through many external relations, driven by desire to a combined “art-religion” immediately prior to absolute knowledge, which exerts a strong influence on the later lectures on aesthetics, as Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert has stated succinctly:

The “Phenomenology,” which develops the spirit-concept as the way of individual historical knowledge to absolute knowledge, therefore orders art and religion as the objective and subjective sides of the grasping of the absolute, that is, the appearance and the imagination, clearly of philosophy, under absolute knowledge. 17

Art, the objective side of the path toward Absolute Knowledge (literally, the “grasping” [Erfassung] of the absolute), demonstrates spiritual development through specific, concrete manifestations in works of art. Because they are enduring products of human consciousness, art objects provide a picture of this development not necessarily accessible through the remote and often accidental patterns of the “slaughter-bench of history” or the subjective complexities of theology. In this way, aesthetics, for Hegel, represents more than a temporary departure from the serious business of writing philosophy:

it is the concrete, sensuous representation of absolute knowledge. The conjoining of art and religion as two sides of the progress of Spirit explains, to some degree, Hegel’s puzzling statement about the end of art, which appears not only in the Lectures on Aesthetics but also in the transcription of the 1823 lectures and in reports of contemporaries. 18 The “end of art thesis,” as it is frequently called, does not mean that all artistic endeavors would abruptly come to an end in the late 1820s; it simply means that the high point of the significance of art for humanity had already been reached in classical times, when art and religion were part of the same spiritual experience. As Hegel says in the 1823 lectures, in classical


Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material

sculpture, “It [sculpture] exhibits the divine shape itself. The god inhabits its externality in silent, holy, rigid calm.” 19 Art, for us, is a thing of the past not because it no longer exists but because our experience of it is merely a diminished, belated echo of what the Greeks experienced when viewing, for instance, the statue of Athena in the Parthenon. Sculpture, as Hegel says several times, was the consummate medium for classical times; the Romantic era, which he defined as anything post- classical, that is, the era of Christianity, must turn inward now that God has appeared in human form:

Since therefore the actual individual man is the appearance of God, art now wins for the first time the higher right of turning the human form, and the mode of externality in general, into an expression of the Absolute, although the new task of art can only consist in bringing before contemplation in this human form not the immersion of the inner in external corporeality but, conversely, the withdrawal of the inner into itself, the spiritual consciousness of God in the individual. 20

The particular artistic media suited to bringing “the withdrawal of the inner into itself” are painting, music, and poetry. Painting collapses three- dimensions into two through linear perspective, providing the illusion of depth rather than the immanence of the divine figure itself, as classical sculp- ture did. Similarly, music and poetry cannot represent an object by occupy- ing precisely the same physical space and visual appearance; their material existence as word and sound invariably involve some kind of abstraction. Models of representation in these forms invariably involve moving away from the classical principles and into what Hegel calls the “symbolic art form.”

music and the hegelian forms of art

Early in the Lectures on Aesthetics, Hegel has some puzzling reservations about the suitability of music for the expression of serious content. In an abstract discussion of the relation between content and its manifestation in the artwork, he attempts to explain why some art forms seem to require more maturity of their creators than others:

Of course, in this respect, one art needs more than another the consciousness and knowledge of such content. Music, for example, which is concerned only with the completely indeterminate movement of the inner spirit and with sounds as if they were feeling without thought, needs to have little or no spiritual material present in consciousness. Therefore musical talent announces itself very early in youth, when the head is empty and the heart little moved, and it may sometimes attain a

Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art