Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...

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Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Modern Language Quarterly - Herbert Lindenberger

[A] superb book... a living testimony that philological learning and literary sensibility can be happily compatible.

H-Disability - Ian Miller

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

Eighteenth Century Music

As a study of a literary obsession, Hamilton's book will remain a key text for those interested in the genesis of the idea of ineffable music.

J. Modern Language Quarterly
[A] superb book... a living testimony that philological learning and literary sensibility can be happily compatible.

— Herbert Lindenberger

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

— Ian Miller

Eighteenth-Century Music
As a study of a literary obsession, Hamilton's book will remain a key text for those interested in the genesis of the idea of ineffable music.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

John T. Hamilton is professor of comparative literature and Germanic languages and literature at New York University. He has held teaching positions at the University of California-Santa Cruz and 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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Table of Contents

Hors d'oeuvre I

Introduction The Subject of Music and Madness 1

1 Hearing Voices 20

2 Unequal Song 49

3 Resounding Sense 77

4 The Most Violent of the Arts 101

5 With Arts Unknown Before: Kleist and the Power of Music 134

6 Before and After Language: Hoffmann 159

Hors d'oeuvre II 201

Notes 211

Bibliography 233

Index 245

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