Friedrich Hölderlin

Essays and Letters on Theory

Edited and translated by Thomas Pfau

Subjects: Critical Theory
Paperback : 9780887065590, 208 pages, December 1987
Hardcover : 9780887065583, 208 pages, December 1987

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Table of contents

Notes on the Translation

List of Abbreviations

Friedrich Hölderlin: A Chronicle

Critical Introduction


On the Law of Freedom

On the Concept of Punishment

Judgment and Being

The Perspective from which We Have to Look at Antiquity

On the Different Forms of Poetic Composition


"The Sages, however"

The Ground for Empedocles

On the Operations of the Poetic Spirit

On the Difference of Poetic Modes

The Significance of Tragedies

On Religion

Becoming in Dissolution

Remarks on "Oedipus"

Remarks on "Antigone"

Selected Letters

No. 41
To his Mother

No. 60
To Neuffer

No. 94
To Hegel

No. 97
To his Brother

No. 117
To Immanuel Niethammer

No. 121
To his Brother

No. 172
To his Brother

No. 183
To Neuffer

No. 186
To Schelling

No. 236
To Casimir Ulrich Böhlendorff

No. 240
To Casimir Ulrich Böhlendorff

The Oldest System-Program of German Idealism



Selected Bibliography


Hölderlin's essays and letters constitute essential documents for an understanding of the transitional period from neo-classical poetics to what can only be characterized as a unique and, in its frequently experimental structure, essentially modernist poetics.

This book contains virtually all of Hölderlin's theoretical writings translated for the first time. In spite of the great significance of Hölderlin's ideas for contemporary critical thought, most of his highly important theoretical oeuvre has been unavailable to English readers until now. Here also are a number of letters which chart the development of Hölderlin's thought on issues that today remain fundamental to poetics and philosophy.

The work's critical introduction discusses both the historical genesis of Hölderlin's theoretical writings out of the enlightenment as well as their systematic interaction with post-Kantian Idealism. Through interpretations of three short fragments, Pfau indicates that it would be insufficient to consider Hölderlin as the mere precursor of the great systematic philosophers of German Idealism--Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Instead, Hölderlin's earliest theoretical fragments already mark a turn away from the rigorous systematicity that underlies the philosophical discourse of his contemporaries. Hölderlin's theoretical writings may be the most seminal texts in the widely discussed interimplication of Idealistic philosophy and Romantic poetry and poetics.