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Publisher Description

E.T.A. Hoffmann's interest in the musical sublime has been recognized, but never related to Ritter Gluck (1809/14), nor to the theme of textuality. (1) Indeed, despite the importance currently attributed to the sublime, relatively little has been written about the musical sublime, especially outside of musicology. This is particularly surprising given the widespread recognition of the rising prestige of music from the late-eighteenth century, and given that the philosophical and cultural explanations put forward for the rise of the sublime and of music are strikingly similar. (2) Ritter Gluck presents complex interactions of word and music, text and the non-textual. This article suggests that the tale testifies to the nineteenth-century fascination with music and the sublime as potential sources of culturally and linguistically unmediated, absolute knowledge or experience. The text stages the artist's difficulty in relating the supersensible to the mundane and sensible--in Hoffmann's terms, relating inner experience to the external social world. Over 50 years before Nietzsche's Geburt der Tragedie aus dem Geiste der Musik, Hoffmann's tale offers its own powerful meditation on the "Paarung" of fixed, finite forms with the distinct yet indefinite energy of music (Nietzsche 19). As Nietzsche saw in attic tragedy's merging of Dionysus and Apollo the "metaphysical miracle" of a strong, even violent "hellenic 'will,'" so Hoffmann's paradigm of a composer seized by and seizing the "erschutternde Gewalt des Tones" (Nietzsche 19) is Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck, a composer renowned for tragic operas on classical themes: Antigone, Orpheus, Alceste, and the famous Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris. Kant's sublime is a productive reference point for Ritter Gluck in several ways. First, Riner Gluck's problem of externalizing the artist's visionary experience can be made intelligible alongside Kant's claims that aesthetics and judgment provide sorely needed mediation between faculties, and that we glimpse in the sublime a connection between sensuous experience and the unimaginable supersensible sphere. Second, Kant's sublime stages an interplay between representation and unrepresentability which resonates with Hoffmann's paradoxical depiction of intangible music as having Gestalt. Third, Gewalt and pain are central to Kant's and Hoffmann's sublimes: Hoffmann's brief tale probes almost obsessively the violence and pain implicated in both the sublime and the social world.

September 22
American Association of Teachers of German
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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