Hölderlin's Hymns "Germania" and "The Rhine"

Hölderlin's Hymns "Germania" and "The Rhine"

Hölderlin's Hymns "Germania" and "The Rhine"

Hölderlin's Hymns "Germania" and "The Rhine"

Synopsis

Martin Heidegger's 1934–1935 lectures on Friedrich Hölderlin's hymns "Germania" and "The Rhine" are considered the most significant among Heidegger's lectures on Hölderlin. Coming at a crucial time in his career, the text illustrates Heidegger's turn toward language, art, and poetry while reflecting his despair at his failure to revolutionize the German university and his hope for a more profound revolution through the German language, guided by Hölderlin's poetry. These lectures are important for understanding Heidegger's changing relation to politics, his turn toward Nietzsche, his thinking about the German language, and his breakthrough to a new kind of poetic thinking. First published in 1980 as volume 39 of Heidegger's Complete Works, this graceful and rigorous English-language translation will be widely discussed in continental philosophy and literary theory.

Excerpt

This text makes available an English translation of Martin Heidegger’s first lecture course on Hölderlin’s poetry, devoted to an interpretation of the hymns “Germania” and “The Rhine.” Delivered in Freiburg in the winter semester of 1934–35, this course marks Heidegger’s first sustained engagement with Hölderlin’s poetizing, and is particularly important for understanding the works of Heidegger that follow in the mid- to late 1930s and beyond. Key works such as the Introduction to Metaphysics (1935), “The Origin of the Work of Art” (1936), and the Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event) (1936–38) receive essential illumination from the first Hölderlin course, as does the 1936 essay “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry.” Prominent themes of the lecture course include not only the turn to language and poetic dwelling, as well as an engagement with the Hölderlinian themes of the Earth and of the flight of the gods, but also issues of politics and national identity. the scope and significance of the course are thus by no means limited to Heidegger’s encounter with a poet.

The lecture course on “Germania” and “The Rhine” was the first of three major lecture courses that Heidegger devoted to Hölderlin, the other two being a course on the hymn “Remembrance,” delivered in winter semester 1941–42, and a course on “The Ister” directly following in summer semester 1942. in addition, Heidegger published a collection of essays entitled Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry, a volume that originally appeared in 1944. Its current, expanded edition contains essays written between 1936 and 1968. the course on “Germania” and “The Rhine” was first published in 1980 as volume 39 of the Gesamtausgabe or Complete Edition of Heidegger’s works, and subsequently

1. the three lecture courses are published as Gesamtausgabe Bd. 39. Hölderlins Hymnen “Germanien” und “Der Rhein,” Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1980; Bd. 52. Hölderlins Hymne “Andenken,” Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1982; and Bd. 53. Hölderlins Hymne “Der Ister,” Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1984. An English translation of the third lecture course has been published as Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister,” translated by William McNeill and Julia Davis, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996. For an overview of the three lecture courses, see William McNeill, “The Hölderlin Lectures,” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger, edited by François Raffoul and Eric S. Nelson, New York: Bloomsbury, 2013, 223–35.

2. See Gesamtausgabe Bd. 4. Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung (1936–1968), Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1981. Translated as Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry by Keith Hoeller, Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2000.

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