Holderlin

Holderlin

Holderlin

Holderlin

Synopsis

This book, the first new critical biography of H"olderlin to appear in over 50 years, makes a notoriously "difficult" major poet accessible to English-speaking readers, providing a comprehensive discussion of his life and work, and placing him firmly in the context of his times.

Excerpt

What I have tried to do in this book is write about Höderlin in such a way that more people will think him worth reading and accessible. He is a very pure poet, and peculiarly resistant to reductive paraphrase and exposition. Years spent 'teaching' him to undergraduates have taught me at least what the difficulties are; and I have done my best in the writing of this book to demonstrate how he might adequately be read.

There exist already innumerable books on Höderlin, but most of them are concerned, quite rightly and interestingly, with very particular and the most difficult aspects of his work. in English there has been no general and substantial critical introduction to Höderlin for fifty years. Then, Höderlin is a writer who has excited extremely partisan passions among professional critics. Many books on him, though valuable and stimulating, require from the reader a running corrective which without specialist knowledge he or she may not be able to give. I thought an even-handed and rather pragmatic study would be useful, but it may be that in practice I have not been either.

The book proceeds chronologically and recounts at least the main line of Höderlin's life. Some biographical knowledge will certainly help us read him. Besides, I admit the life fascinates me. I have quoted a great deal from the letters. They are documents which draw closer and closer to his verse. in the early chapters I have treated the works in their particular periods; but then the novel and the tragedy have a chapter each; and, arriving at 1800, I tried to expound the imagery, the coherent poetic world, which Höderlin inhabited at least until his journey to Bordeaux. the three following chapters (9, 10, and 11) interrupt the chronological procedure and deal with the poems of those years (1800-2) in their genres: as elegies, odes and hymns. This seemed to me necessary, since the form and calculable workings of a Höderlin poem are vitally important in every case. Moreover, I thought it would be best for the poems (the elegies and hymns at least) if I wrote separately on each; and perhaps that strategy or expedient needs a further word of explanation and justification.

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