- Hölderlin and the Romantic Tradition
Amalia Herrmann & John Namjun Kim
This publication of Paul de Man’s “Hölderlin and the Romantic Tradition” is a critical edition of a twenty-one-page typescript with de Man’s handwritten corrections (henceforth the Princeton Typescript), located and identified by the editors in the archive of the Quarterly Review of Literature (QRL) at Princeton University Library. A fragment of an earlier draft of this essay was previously published in Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminar and Other Papers, edited by E. S. Burt, Kevin Newmark, and Andrzej Warminski. The previously published fragment (RCC) corresponds roughly to the first twelve and a half pages of the Princeton Typescript and was based upon a seventeen-page manuscript archived in de Man’s papers at the University of California, Irvine Libraries (Irvine Manuscript 1–17). In that archive, the present editors found an additional eight pages of the same draft manuscript (Irvine Manuscript 21–28), described in the finding aid as miscellaneous notes to de Man’s essay “The Image of Rousseau in the Poetry of Hölderlin.” Substantive differences between the Princeton Typescript and earlier versions—RCC and the two Irvine Manuscripts—are recorded in the notes of this critical edition. Though the proceeding edition of de Man’s essay provides a fully developed and textually complete argument, the materials available in the ever-evolving archival corpus suggest that it is likely not the final version of “Hölderlin and the Romantic Tradition.”
The Princeton Typescript was found among de Man’s extensive correspondence with Theodore and Renée Weiss, then editors of the QRL at Bard College, where de Man had taught from 1949 to 1951.1 The immediate occasion of their correspondence from early 1958 to late 1959—while de Man was a PhD candidate and Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University—was the preparation of a special issue of the QRL on Friedrich Hölderlin, a figure then largely unknown to American readers. De Man’s letters indicate that the Weisses had sought his assistance in finding an appropriate text by Martin Heidegger on Hölderlin to include in the special issue. De Man selected and [End Page 101] translated Heidegger’s 1936 essay “Hölderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung,” published in the journal as “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry.”2
As de Man’s letter of March 14, 1959 indicates, he had sent the Weisses the Princeton Typescript not as a submission for consideration in the Hölderlin issue of the QRL but merely to share recent work relevant to their editorial project. De Man writes to them about his paper:
It is something of a general introduction to Hölderlin called “H. and the Romantic Tradition,” but as it is based on one poem (The Rhine) it would not be of any use to you, even if it were more carefully polished and less didactically written. But I thought you might be interested in it as an attempt to locate Hölderlin in relation to problems that are familiar to us in modern poetry—and also as an attempt to formulate some of those problems in a less negative language than I usually fall into.
The same letter indicates that the Princeton Typescript was written specifically as a public lecture—rather than as a finished article—which, he writes, “I gave at Brandeis this Winter.” An announcement in the February 10, 1959 issue of the Brandeis student newspaper, The Justice, dates de Man’s lecture as taking place that day, “sponsored by Le Cercle Français, the Lessingverein, and the Department of European Languages and Literature.”
As the material conditions of scholarly labor in 1959 vastly differed from those of today, with the reprographic technologies affordable to a graduate student then largely limited to carbon copies and mimeographs, it seems unlikely that the typescript sent to the Weisses with de Man’s handwritten corrections was the last version of “Hölderlin and the Romantic Tradition.” More likely, the Princeton Typescript is a near-final...