Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language

Kobo ebook | July 16, 2012

byJohn T Hamilton

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In the romantic tradition, music is consistently associated with madness, either as cause or cure. Writers as diverse as Kleist, Hoffmann, and Nietzsche articulated this theme, which in fact reaches back to classical antiquity and continues to resonate in the modern imagination. What John Hamilton investigates in this study is the way literary, philosophical, and psychological treatments of music and madness challenge the limits of representation and thereby create a crisis of language. Special focus is given to the decidedly autobiographical impulse of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, where musical experience and mental disturbance disrupt the expression of referential thought, illuminating the irreducible aspects of the self before language can work them back into a discursive system.

The study begins in the 1750s with Diderot's Neveu de Rameau, and situates that text in relation to Rousseau's reflections on the voice and the burgeoning discipline of musical aesthetics. Upon tracing the linkage of music and madness that courses through the work of Herder, Hegel, Wackenroder, and Kleist, Hamilton turns his attention to E. T. A. Hoffmann, whose writings of the first decades of the nineteenth century accumulate and qualify the preceding tradition. Throughout, Hamilton considers the particular representations that link music and madness, investigating the underlying motives, preconceptions, and ideological premises that facilitate the association of these two experiences. The gap between sensation and its verbal representation proved especially problematic for romantic writers concerned with the ineffability of selfhood. The author who chose to represent himself necessarily faced problems of language, which invariably compromised the uniqueness that the author wished to express. Music and madness, therefore, unworked the generalizing functions of language and marked a critical limit to linguistic capabilities. While the various conflicts among music, madness, and language questioned the viability of signification, they also raised the possibility of producing meaning beyond significance.

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In the romantic tradition, music is consistently associated with madness, either as cause or cure. Writers as diverse as Kleist, Hoffmann, and Nietzsche articulated this theme, which in fact reaches back to classical antiquity and continues to resonate in the modern imagination. What John Hamilton investigates in this study is the way ...

John T. Hamilton is professor of comparative literature and Germanic literature at Harvard University. The author of Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition (2003), he has also published extensively on German and French literature, aesthetics, and the afterlife of classical antiquity.

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Format:Kobo ebookPublished:July 16, 2012Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231512546

ISBN - 13:9780231512541

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Table of Contents

A Note on Translations and Abbreviations
Hors d'ouvre I
Introduction: The Subject of Music and Madness
1. Hearing Voices
Sirens at the Palais Royal
Between the Infinite and the Infinitesimal
Excursus: The Howl of Marsyas
Socratic Energy
2. Unequal Song
Music and the Irrational
Mimesis: Cratylus and the Origin of Language
Identity and Difference
Crisis at the Cafe de la Regence
Satire, Inequality, and the Individual
Concluding Remarks
3. Resounding Sense
A Break in the Grand Confinement
The Emergence of the Mad Musician
Empfindsamkeit
Hegel's Reading of Le neveu
Sentiment de l'existence
4. The Most Violent of the Arts
The Musical Sublime in Longinus and Burke
Kant's Abdication
Community and Herder's Conception of Music
Wackenroder's Berglinger Novella
5. With Arts Unknown Before: Kleist and the Power of Music
Music, Reflection, and Immediacy in Kleist's Letters
Die Heilige Cacilie oder die Gewalt der Musik
Self-Representation
6. Before and After Language: Hoffmann
The Designative and Disclosive Functions of Language: Kreisleriana
The Uses of Form
Emptying Out Into Form: Julia Mark and the "Berganza" Dialogue
Euphony and Discord: "Ritter Gluck"
Postscriptum: "Rat Krespel"
Praescriptum: Kater Murr
Hors d'ouvre II
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

An extremely accomplished work that provides a powerful insight into a potentially important historical topic.