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Title: Hölderlins Anschauungen vom Beruf des Dichters im Zusammenhang mit dem Stil seiner Dichtung = The conception of the poet in Hoelderlin, as revealed in the themes and style of his poetic works
Author: Salsberger, Lore S.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1949
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The thesis is concerned with three main problems: (1) The derivation of Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet from the Renaissance tradition (2) The problems inherent in Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet (3) The relationship between Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet and the style of his poetic works. These questions are treated chronologically in their respective relevance to each stage in Hoelderlin's development. The first part of the thesis is devoted to the poet's early poetry, his novel "Hyperion", and his aesthetic theory as reflected in the various versions of that novel and in the philosophical fragments; the second part deals with the drama "Empedokles" and the mature poetry. For the purpose of this essay, however, it seems more practicable to abandon the purely chronological order and to discuss separately each of the three problems mentioned. (1) Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet is based on the Greek Vates and the biblical Prophet. The importance of the classical and biblical traditions for Hoelderlin as well as the extent to which he was influenced by Klopstock and other German contemporaries have been stressed again and again; but the significance of the tradition linkng the centuries between antiquity and the 18th century has been neglected. This thesis attempts to fill the gap and to show that Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet is inconceivable without the gradual change in the cultural pattern brought about by the Renaissance. It it in the Renaissance that art (with philosophy) takes over part of the function formerly fulfilled by religion, that the inspired individual rather than the institution of the Church becomes the mediator between God and men, that the national community emerges from the international society of the Middle Ages, and that a transformation of the classical and Christian heritage takes place. All this is reflected in the Renaissance conception of the Poet as Vates and Prophet, who interprets history and brings a divine message to his people. From Boccaccio to Scaliger this conception occurs in all major Italian Renaissance works on poetic theory. Ronsard, as the first modern Poet-Vates, introduces it in France. In England Sidney expounds similar views, later to be realized in the personality and work of Milton. In Germany it is Hoelderlin's Suabian compatriot Weckherlin who emulates the example of Ronsard, while Opitz sums up the typical contemporary view of poetry in his standard German Renaissance Poetics. A century later Gottsched and Herder go back to Opitz for their interpretation of the sacred mission of poetry. The young Klopstock is influenced by Gottsched as well as by Milton. He, Herder, Schiller and the Suabian poets, humanists and pietists, hand on the tradition to Hoelderlin. The idea, however, that the Poet is a Prophet would not be understandable without certain philosophical conceptions which were also developed by the Renaissance. Plato's theory of the "furor poeticus", commented on and interpreted in a neo-platonic way by Marsilio Ficino, is taken over by Ronsard and Opitz and blends with Giordano Bruno's and Shaftesbury's re-interpretation of neo-platonism and these influences join with Leibniz's monadology to shape German aesthetics in the 18th century. The conceptions then current reach Hoelderlin through Herder, Schiller, and Jacobi's book on Spinoza, which contained extracts from Bruno and Leibniz. Thus for Hoelderlin - as for his generation - God is the supreme artist, Beauty the very essence of the universe, the human soul a spark of the divine, and the Poet, according to Shaftesbury "a second maker", creates, like God himself, through the Word, the sacred Logos. These philosophical concepts both supplement and contradict Hoelderlin's view of the Poet as a Vates and Prophet. Equipped with the Renaissance heritage Hoelderlin arrives in Jena, the centre of German classicism and the cradle of romanticism. The impact of Kant, Fichte, Goethe, Schiller and Schelling on Hoelderlin and the reflection in his own philosophical writings of his contacts with these leading figures of contemporary letters are discussed in a separate chapter. In Hoelderlin's aesthetic theory the Renaissance conception of the Poet has been developed up to the point where it passes into romanticism. In this, Hoelderlin's place in German literature corresponds to that of Goethe. It is true, there is a vast difference which critics have rightly stressed. It is, however, one of the advantages of seeing Hoelderlin in the light of the Renaissance tradition that, in spite of differences, he appears as the contemporary of Goethe, the chief representative of the belated German Renaissance. Just as Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet goes back to the Renaissance, so do many of his poetic themes, such as the parallels between Christ and Hercules, Christ and Bacchus, the invitation to the Greek Muses to visit Germany, the praise of the vernacular, his approach to nature and geography, etc. (2) Hoelderlin's conception of the Poet is full of problems. They become first manifest in "Hyperion". The hero of this novel, a reflection of Hoelderlin himself, is the Poet, who in sublime visions sees divine Beauty, and the Vates who wants to free his people and rebuild Greece. As Vates he fails. He attributes his failure to the fact that the age is not ripe for his idealism, but it is also due to the conception of the Poet-Vates itself. As a Poet Hyperion delights in the very act of experiencing life in its joyful as well as tragic aspects, life revealing itself to him as a rhythmic whole which he calls Beauty and which is but the projection of the rhythm of human emotions into the universe. But the universe does not obey the laws of the human heart, nor does history; a "theocracy" cannot be founded on Beauty as Hyperion believes; his gift for experiencing deeply the joys and woes of life does not enable him to rebuild a new society - in short the Poet's vision does not prove to be the message of a Vates and Prophet. In the moment when, at the end of the novel, Hyperion is at the height of his poetic powers, he knows least how to serve his fellow men. In "Empedokles" the problem of the Poet's function appears somewhat differently. The hero of the drama represents the highest form of genius the poet can conceive. He combines the "Genie" of the Storm and Stress period, Schiller's aesthetic artist, the mystical mediator between God and men, the Greek Titan, and it is also suggested that he is a kind of Christian saviour. This symbol of everything Hoelderlin worshipped in man has to die. It is in the various motivations of the death of Empedokles that Hoelderlin presents the problematical nature of genius. The most interesting point is the question of the guilt of genius. Empedokles is guilty of what is described in the thesis as pseudo-mystical approach to the Gods. The pseudo-mystical experience becomes linked with the problem of language, the very instrument of the Poet. In order to re-establish the right relationship between himself and the Gods, Empedokes has to die. But as he prepares for death he is once again re-united both with his people and with the Gods. It is at the expense of his life that he is allowed to be the Prophet who delivers a divine message unto his people. The end suggests that genius can be both, and almost at the same time, the culprit and the redeemer, a conception which Hoelderlin's theory of tragedy tries to justify. As regards the drama itself we are left with one the one hand the glorification of genius and on the other the dangers, the guilt, the tragic fate that go with genius. The problem of genius is also the main theme of Hoelderlin's mature poetry. It is by singing of genii that he evokes the vast panorama of his later elegies, odes and hymns.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature (non-English) ; Literatures of Germanic languages ; German ; Languages (Medieval and Modern) and non-English literature ; Hoelderlin ; poetry