Friedrich Hölderlin  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

Hölderlin was a poet-thinker who wrote, fragmentarily, on poetic theory and philosophical matters. His theoretical works, such as the essays "Das Werden im Vergehen" ("Becoming in Dissolution") and "Urteil und Sein" ("Judgement and Being") are insightful and important if somewhat tortuous and difficult to parse. They raise many of the key problems also addressed by his Tübingen roommates Hegel and Schelling. And, though his poetry was never "theory-driven", the interpretation and exegesis of some of his more difficult poems has given rise to profound philosophical speculation by thinkers as divergent as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Theodor Adorno.

Dissemination and influence

Hölderlin's major publication in his lifetime was his novel Hyperion, which was issued in two volumes (1797 and 1799). Various individual poems were published but attracted little attention. In 1799 he produced a periodical, Iduna.

In 1804, his translations of the dramas of Sophocles were published but were generally met with derision over their apparent artificiality and difficulty, which according to his critics were caused by transposing Greek idioms into German. However, 20th-century theorists of translation such as Walter Benjamin have vindicated them, showing their importance as a new—and greatly influential—model of poetic translation. Der Rhein and Patmos, two of the longest and most densely charged of his hymns, appeared in a poetic calendar in 1808.

Wilhelm Waiblinger, who visited Hölderlin in his tower repeatedly in 1822–23 and depicted him in the protagonist of his novel Phaëthon, stated the necessity of issuing an edition of his poems, and the first collection of his poetry was released by Ludwig Uhland and Christoph Theodor Schwab in 1826. However, Uhland and Schwab omitted anything they suspected might be "touched by insanity", which included much of Hölderlin's fragmented works. A copy of this collection was given to Hölderlin, but later was stolen by an autograph-hunter. A second, enlarged edition with a biographical essay appeared in 1842, the year before Hölderlin's death.

Only in 1913 did Norbert von Hellingrath, a member of a literary circle around poet Stefan George, publish the first two volumes of what eventually became a six-volume edition of Hölderlin's poems, prose and letters (the "Berlin Edition", Berliner Ausgabe). For the first time, Hölderlin's hymnic drafts and fragments were published and it became possible to gain some overview of his work in the years between 1800 and 1807, which had been only sparsely covered in earlier editions. The Berlin edition and von Hellingrath's perfervid advocacy of Hölderlin's work shifted the emphasis of appraisal from his earlier elegies to the enigmatic and grandiose later hymns.

Already in 1912, before the Berlin Edition began to appear, Rainer Maria Rilke composed his first two Duino Elegies whose form and spirit draw strongly on the hymns and elegies of Hölderlin. Rilke had met von Hellingrath a few years earlier and had seen some of the hymn drafts, and the Duino Elegies heralded the beginning of a new appreciation of Hölderlin's late work. Although his hymns can hardly be imitated, they have become a powerful influence on modern poetry in German and other languages, and are sometimes cited as the very crown of German lyric poetry.

[[File:Hölderlindenkmal - 1881.jpg|thumb|Hölderlin Monument in the Alter Botanischer Garten Tübingen.]] The Berlin Edition was to some extent superseded by the Stuttgart Edition (Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe), which began to be published in 1943 and eventually saw completion in 1986. This undertaking was much more rigorous in textual criticism than the Berlin Edition and solved many issues of interpretation raised by Hölderlin's unfinished and undated texts (sometimes several versions of the same poem with major differences). Meanwhile, a third complete edition, the Frankfurt Critical Edition (Frankfurter Historisch-kritische Ausgabe), began publication in 1975 under the editorship of Dietrich Sattler.

Though Hölderlin's hymnic style—dependent as it is on a genuine belief in the divine—creates a deeply personal fusion of Greek mythic figures and romantic mysticism about nature, which can appear both strange and enticing, his shorter and sometimes more fragmentary poems have exerted wide influence too on later German poets, from Georg Trakl onwards. He also had an influence on the poetry of Hermann Hesse and Paul Celan. (Celan wrote a poem about Hölderlin, called "Tübingen, January" which ends with the word Pallaksch—according to Schwab, Hölderlin's favourite neologism "which sometimes meant Yes, sometimes No".)

Hölderlin was also a thinker who wrote, fragmentarily, on poetic theory and philosophical matters. His theoretical works, such as the essays "Das Werden im Vergehen" ("Becoming in Dissolution") and "Urteil und Sein" ("Judgement and Being") are insightful and important if somewhat tortuous and difficult to parse. They raise many of the key problems also addressed by his Tübingen roommates Hegel and Schelling, and, though his poetry was never "theory-driven", the interpretation and exegesis of some of his more difficult poems has given rise to profound philosophical speculation by thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Alain Badiou.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Friedrich Hölderlin" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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