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Title: Hölderlin's creative assimilation of Greek literature and ideas
Author: Harrison, Robin Burnett
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1972
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Hölderlin's interpretation of Greek religion provides the unifying thread in his interest in Greek literature. It was because he saw Apollo and Zeus as the embodiment of sun and 'Aether', the central phenomena of nature, that his interest was in those works connected with them: the Orphic Hymn to the Sun and Pindar's Pythian and Olympian Odes are concerned with the worship of these gods, Hölderlin's translations of Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus, Antigone and Ajax with man's union with them. At the same time a development can be traced in Hölderlin's attitude to those writers who were important for him. He began by imposing his own idea of the cosmic principle of love on Orpheus and Homer, but in his youthful enthusiasm for action he then acquired an objective understanding of the heroic epic. He came closest to Greek thought in accepting Platonic solutions to his own problems: the accessibility of the divine in beauty and the alternation of moods as the basis of, rather than a hindrance to, unity with nature. The similarity of Hölderlin's elements to those of Empedocles is, however, only apparent, for they owe their character to their function in his poetry. His subjectivity becomes more obvious in his Sophocles-translations and is undisguised in his interpretation of the Pindar-fragments. His Sophocles-translations provided Hölderlin with progressively convincing confirmation of his idea of the process by which 'Natur' and 'Kunst' are reunited. By the ascription of madness to Antigone he introduced the interchange of the opposite poles which is missing in Oedipus der Tyrann, while Ajax's madness makes Hölderlin's last translation the most complete expression of his thought. The 'Anmerkungen' to these translations provide the key to his preoccupation in Mnemosyne and the Pindar-fragments, the problem of how to survive this destructive reunion of God and man. He now clung to those values which he had previously rejected and as 'ein Sohn der Zeit' devoted himself to the interpretation of the past with the aim of remaining within the sphere of 'Kunst' and so avoiding the union with 'Natur' in madness which had overtaken his heroes and by which he felt himself threatened.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: German Literature