The Abyss Above

Philosophy and Poetic Madness in Plato, Hölderlin, and Nietzsche

By Silke-Maria Weineck

Subjects: German Studies
Paperback : 9780791454282, 180 pages, July 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454275, 180 pages, July 2002

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Table of contents



Introduction: Future Perfect


Cassandra, or the Belated Truth of Madness
Total and Restricted Madness
The Limits of Madness and the Limits of Philosophy
From Divine Reason to Madness under the Death of God


1. Talking About Homer: Poetic Madness, Philosophy, and the Birth of Criticism


Talking about Homer
Phaedrus: Madly Made Meaning
Philosophy's Mad Demon


2. The Abyss Above: Hölderlin: Madness, Philosophy, and Tragedy in the Absence of the Gods


Introduction: Madness and the Labor of Poetry
Translating Greece
Antigone and Oedipus: Madness and Sign


3. Nietzsche: The Marketplaces of Madness


Introduction: Nietzsche's Madness and the Fear of Contamination
Nietzsche's Madmen (1): The Artist in the Ditch, or from Metaphysics to Metaphysiology
Nietzsche's Madmen (2): Meta-Morality, or the Madness of New Thought
Nietzsche's Madmen (3): The Last Madman on the Marketplace
The Hyperborean: La Vache Qui Danse


Conclusion: Logos and Pallaksch: Paul Celan's "Tübingen, Jänner"







Uses the figure of the mad poet to explore the connections between madness and creativity.


In The Abyss Above, Silke-Maria Weineck offers the first sustained discussion of the relationship between poetic madness and philosophy. Focusing on the mad poet as a key figure in what Plato called "the ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry," Weineck explores key texts from antiquity to modernity in order to understand why we have come to associate art with irrationality. She shows that the philosophy of madness concedes to the mad a privilege that continues to haunt the Western dream of reason, and that the theory of creative madness always strains the discourse on authenticity, pitching the controlled, repeatable, but restrained labor of philosophy against the spontaneous production of poetic texts said to be, by definition, unique.

Silke-Maria Weineck is Assistant Professor of German Studies at the University of Michigan.


"…an original contribution to the study of philosophy and literature." — CHOICE

"This book is a major contribution to the exploration of madness. Weineck's original readings demonstrate her admirable grasp of German intellectual history and literature. Her argumentation is sophisticated." — Karin Bauer, author of Adorno's Nietzschean Narratives: Critiques of Ideology, Readings of Wagner

"No one intending to think or write on Plato, Hölderlin, or Nietzsche can afford to do so without a knowledge of Weineck's chapters." — Stanley Corngold, author of Complex Pleasure: Forms of Feeling in German Literature

"Absolutely fascinating on every page. One learns from Weineck's way of putting things as well as from the points themselves. " — John McCumber, author of Poetic Interaction: Language, Freedom, Reason