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Tragic Effects

Ethics and Tragedy in the Age of Translation

Theresa Augst

Publication Year: 2012

Tragic Effects: Ethics and Tragedy in the Age of Translation confronts the peculiar fascination with Greek tragedy as it shapes the German intellectual tradition, with particular focus on the often controversial practice of translating the Greeks. Whereas the tradition of emulating classical ideals in German intellectual life has generally emerged from the impulse to identify with models, the challenge of translating the Greeks underscores the linguistic and historical discontinuities inherent in the recourse to ancient material and inscribes that experience of disruption as fundamental to modernity. Friedrich Hölderlin’s translations are a case in point. Regarded in his own time as the work of a madman, his renditions of Sophoclean tragedy intensify dramatic effect with the unsettling experience of familiar language slipping its moorings. His attention to marking the distances between ancient source text and modern translation has granted his Oedipus and Antigone a distinct longevity as objects of discussion, adaptation, and even retranslation. Cited by Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Bertolt Brecht, and others, Hölderlin’s Sophocles project follows a path both marked by various contexts and tinged by persistent quandaries of untranslatability.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Classical Memories/Modern Identities


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-viii

...Reflecting on how friends and colleagues have helped me with this book affords me the very happy opportunity to revisit many unexpected and often serendipitous moments along the way. For her constructive advice and tireless feedback on the earliest drafts of the Hölderlin chapters, I am grateful to my superb adviser at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Elisabeth Weber...


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pp. ix-x

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Thinking in Translation

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pp. 1-24

...Perhaps it is not surprising to discover that he knew, but in the shadows cast over the generations that followed him, his words possess an especially marked poignancy. While Goethe does arrive at his own version of classical tragedy in Iphigenie auf Tauris, he ultimately criticizes that attempt as too “damned humane” (verteufelt human); meanwhile, there is little doubt that the peril he describes in confronting the tragic continued to haunt those who bore his legacy...

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1. Contexts: Why Translate? Why Study the Greeks?

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pp. 25-46

...Two related intellectual projects frame the context in which Hölderlin would translate Greek tragedy in the long eighteenth century: on one hand the ongoing discussion of how classical Greek models—including, but not limited to tragedy—might provide the aesthetic ideal to which German culture should aspire, on the other the discourse surrounding the importance of translation for the development of German language...

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2. Distancing: Oedipal Solitude

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pp. 47-85

...and already, with the mirror placed both before him and in him, we begin to reflect on what has set him so very far apart. To be sure, the dominant image of Hölderlin in the German cultural imagination remains that of the Einzelgänger: the sensitive loner, the conflicted revolutionary, the tragically silent madman. His translations, moreover, were widely regarded as the unfortunate product of precisely that habit of risk-taking against which Susette warns here...

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3. Difference Becomes Antigone

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pp. 86-121

...Though few are like Hölderlin, as Susette Gontard noted, and even fewer like solitary Oedipus, still we all are, unsettling as it is, like Antigone. With a judicious word choice, Hölderlin makes his Chorus of Theban elders suggest as much: as monstrous as she may appear to man in her singular determination, she cannot exceed him in this regard, for nothing is more monstrous than the human. Though Hölderlin had already attempted ...

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4. The Translator’s Courage

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pp. 122-145

...In 1806, just two years after publishing the Sophocles translations, Hölderlin was institutionalized at the Autenrieth clinic in Tübingen. A year later he was released into the care of the Zimmer family and spent the next thirty-seven years—half of his life—in a small tower overlooking the Neckar river. Until his death in 1843 he remained an object of considerable fascination and sentimentalization among fellow poets and thinkers of his...

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5. Out of Tune? Heidegger on Translation

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pp. 146-191

...reading touches lightly upon a text. And leaves a trace, however faint. A Verstimmung, a disordering, resounds from within, leaving the voice of the bell out of tune, the tenor of the text inescapably other than it was before—allowing existing forms to be unsettled by “humble things,” revealing a new dimension of the past that only becomes audible through its echoes in the present, in the moment of reading. In the 1951 foreword to...

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Ruined Theater: Adaptation and Responsibility in Brecht’s Antigonemodell

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pp. 192-227

...To a Europe in which memory would be forced to bear the “horrors of hate,” in which art would have to confront incessantly the contours of that hatred and to place itself at odds with a tainted history. In 1947, to be sure, art could do little else. A mere five years after Heidegger had insisted on the concurrent flow, the Zwiesprache of poetry and history evidenced in Hölderlin’s Dichtung der Ströme...

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Conclusion: Re-writing

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pp. 228-252

...Does that mean we have come any closer to it? In his eloquent discussion of the Lutheran Bible’s historical significance, Franz Rosenzweig describes the “miraculous” moment in the history of translation in which the foreign work becomes, for better or for worse, a native text, when “the receiving people comes forth of its own desire and in its own utterance to meet the wingbeat of the foreign work.”...


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pp. 253-264


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pp. 265-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270486
E-ISBN-10: 0814270484
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211830
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211836

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Classical Memories/Modern Identities