In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Language and Form: Hölderlin’s Errancy
  • Patrick Greaney (bio)

Considerations of language, of form, and of errancy lie at the center of Hölderlin’s most sustained poetological reflection, the fragment posthumously entitled “Über die Verfahrungsweise des poetischen Geistes” (“On the Mode of Operation of the Poetic Spirit”). The fragment’s appendix, entitled “Wink für die Darstellung und Sprache” (“Indication for Presentation and Language”), opens with four questions that offer a concise formulation of the text’s concerns:

Wink für die Darstellung und Sprache

  1. [1]. Ist die Sprache nicht, wie die Erkenntnis von der die Rede war, und von der gesagt wurde daß in ihr, als Einheit das Einige enthalten seie, und umgekehrt? und daß sie dreifacher Art sei p.p.

  2. [2]. Muß nicht für das eine, wie für das andere der schönste Moment da liegen, wo der eigentliche Ausdruk, die geistigste Sprache das lebendigste Bewußtseyn, wo der Übergang von einer bestimmten Unendlichkeit zur allgemeineren liegt?

  3. [3]. Liegt nicht eben hierin der veste Punct, wodurch der Folge der Zeichnung ihre Verhältnisart, und den Lokalfarben wie der Beleuchtung ihr Karakter und Grad bestimmt wird?

  4. [4]. Wird nicht alle Beurtheilung der Sprache sich darauf reduciren, daß man nach den sichersten und möglich untrüglichsten Kennzeichen sie prüft, ob sie die Sprache einer ächten schön beschriebenen Empfindung sei? 1 [End Page 537]

Indication for Presentation and Language

  1. [1]. Is not language like the knowledge discussed above, of which was said that unity is contained in it as oneness and vice versa? and that it is of threefold manner etc.

  2. [2]. For the one as well as for the other, must not the most beautiful moment lie where there is actual expression, the most spiritual language and the most alive consciousness, where the transition from a determined infinity to a more general one is?

  3. [3]. Does not the fixed point lie precisely in that transition by which the mode of relation is determined for the sequence of the inscription and the character and degree are determined for the local colors and for the illumination?

  4. [4]. Will not all judgment of language reduce itself to testing it according to the surest and most non-deceiving signs whether it be the language of a true, beautifully described sensation? 2

The reading of Hölderlin’s fragment that follows will focus on a particular tension between the second and third questions. The second question presents the “most beautiful moment” as a place of excess and transition, the place of what is most spiritual and what is most alive. The most beautiful moment is a transition beyond determination into a more general or universal infinity. The third question presents a point that is fixed or stable “within” the most beautiful moment; the fixed point is the source of determination. There is a moment of excess—“der schönste Moment”—and a point of stability—“der veste Punct.” The latter is “in” the former. Their intersection is the crux of Hölderlin’s text: the moment in which determination and an excess beyond determination meet.

For Hölderlin, the intersection of determination and what is undetermined is necessary and permanent, and this juxtaposition creates a singular dilemma for the conceptualization of appearance and of language. In Hölderlin’s poetic operation, there is no determination without the undetermined, no form without formlessness. My inquiry takes as its object this continual coincidence and how its inclusion within the poetic operation demands an elaboration of the movement of errancy within Hölderlin’s text. But errancy in “On the Mode of Operation of the Poetic Spirit” can only be understood after [End Page 538] a presentation of the interpenetration of determination and what exceeds determination in Hölderlin’s text.

The relation between determination and what is undetermined within Hölderlin’s poetic operation can be read as part of what Jean-François Lyotard identifies as a shift within aesthetics at the end of the eighteenth century:

Despite the efforts of speculative thought and Romanticism, at the end of the 18th century, confidence in natural forms was shaken, and beyond forms or in their very depth, thought was made...

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6598
Print ISSN
0026-7910
Pages
pp. 537-560
Launched on MUSE
1998-04-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.