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Revisiting E. T. A.

Hoffmann's Musical Hermeneutics


Author(s): Abigail Chantler
Source: International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jun., 2002
), pp. 3-30
Published by: Croatian Musicological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4149784
Accessed: 09-01-2016 17:43 UTC
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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3-30

REVISITINGE. T. A. HOFFMANN'SMUSICALHERMENEUTICS

E.T.A.
UDC:78.01HOFFMANN,

ABIGAILCHANTLER

OriginalScientificPaper

rad
Izvorniznanstveni

TrinityCollege
DUBLIN,Ireland
E-mail:chantlea@tcd.ie

Received:January3, 2002
2002.
Primljeno:3. sijeCnja
Accepted:April 15,2002
Prihvadeno:15. travnja2002.

Abstract - Resume
Whilst

The affinity between the world-view of


FriedrichSchleiermacherand E.T.A. Hoffmann,
whose cultural
as prominent Friihromantiker

stemming from different traditions.

ism, underpinnedthe complexinterrelationship

century, Hoffmann's 'musical hermeneutics'

Schleiermacher's'general hermeneutics' was


conceived in contradistinctionto the more specializedhermeneuticspractisedin theeighteenth

milieu was dominated by philosophical ideal-

stemmed from an aesthetic tradition inauguratedby thinkersof the SturmundDrangmove-

between the multi-faceted thought of each. It

was however the disparitybetween theirinterpretationsof organicismwhich was reflectedin


the relationship

between

ment. This is illustrated by the contextualisation


of Hoffmann's 'Review of Beethoven's Fifth
Symphony' (1810) in relation to the aesthetic and

Schleiermacher's

hermeneutics and Hoffmann's 'musical

literarycriticismof Goetheand Herder.

hermeneutics', as interpretative methodologies

I
The complex interrelationshipbetween the thought of E. T. A. Hoffmann and
is a fertile source for an
FriedrichSchleiermacher,as prominent Friihromantiker,
Both men moved
Berlin
Isaiah
the
of
ideas
of
in
the
perfected.'
type
history
essay
in the same literary circles in early-nineteenth-centuryBerlin, although there is
evidence of nothing more than a fleeting social acquaintancebetween them.2 The
' See IsaiahBERLIN,TheRootsof Romanticism:
TheA. W.MellonLecturesin theFineArts,1965,The
NationalGalleryof Art, Washington,
DC,Henry Hardy (ed.), (London:Chatto& Windus, 1999).
2
Hoffmann alludes to Schleiermacher in two letters dating from 1807. See SelectedLettersof E. T.
A. Hoffmann, Johanna C. Sahlin (ed., trans.), (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1977),
125-7.

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E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

interests of both were extremely diverse, and their respective achievements have
proved to be of historicalsignificance. Whilst Hoffmann is probablybest-known
as the authorof fantastictales (familiarto musicians throughOffenbach'sTheTales
of Hoffmann(1881) amongst other works), he was also prolific as a music critic
and composer, and active as a conductor, artist,and designer of stage scenery, in
addition to pursuing a highly successful careeras a juristand civil servant.3 The
significance of his contributionto romantic aesthetic and literary theory, and to
music theory has been widely acknowledged and, in particular,his 'Review of
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony' (1810) heralded as 'an epoch-making account of a
musical landmark, and an epoch-making statement of Romantic theory'.4
Schleiermacherwas an erudite Protestanttheologian,whose radicalconception of
religion was informed by his engagement with the philosophy of thinkers like
Kantand Fichte.s As a philosopher himself, his posthumous reputationhas rested
primarily on his seminal contributionto hermeneutics,and arguably somewhat
lesser contributionto aesthetics - aspects of his thought that have to be understood as complementary.6
The affinity between the world-view of Schleiermacherand Hoffmann, as
members of a cultural milieudominated by philosophical idealism, was reflected
in the kinship between Schleiermacher'sconception of religion and Hoffmann's
conception of aesthetic experience as a form of spiritual experience.7 Just as
Schleiermacherconceived religion as the 'intuitionof the infinite in the finite',8so
Hoffmann conceived Beethoven'sFifthSymphony as an embodiment of the composer's 'infinite yearning' with which the recipient of the work engages.9 Their
intellectual kinship was also manifest in the notion, they shared with many of
3 The most comprehensiveEnglish-languagebiographicalaccountof HoffmannremainsHarvey
AuthoroftheTales(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress,1948).
WatermanHEWETT-THAYER,
Hoffmann:
4David Charlton(ed.), E.T.A. Hoffmann's
MusicalWritings:
ThePoetandtheComposer,
Kreisleriana,
MusicCriticism,MartynClarke(trans.),(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1989),236. This is
the most comprehensiveEnglishtranslationof Hoffmann'smusicalwritings,to which I referthroughout this article.
Schleiermacher:
Lifeand
5 For a biographicalaccount of Schleiermachersee MartinREDEKER,
Thought,John Wallhausser (trans.), (Philadelphia:Fortress Press, 1973);Stephen SYKES,Friedrich
Schleiermacher
(London:Lutterworth,1971).
of Schleiermacher's
lecturenoteson hermeneuticsto whichI referthrough6 TheEnglishtranslation
Hermeneutics:
TheHandwrittenManuscripts,Heinz
out this article is FriedrichSCHLEIERMACHER,
Kimmerle(ed.), James Duke and JackForstman(trans.),(Missoula,Montana:ScholarsPress, 1977).
Themostrecenttranslationof Schleiermacher's
noteson hermeneuticsis FriedrichSCHLEIERMACHER,
and Criticismand OtherWritings,Andrew Bowie (ed., trans.),(Cambridge:Cambridge
Hermeneutics
UniversityPress, 1998).
On Religion:SpeechestoIts CulturedDespisers(1799)was writtento dem7 SCHLEIERMACHER's
onstrateto his friends in Berlin(who included HenrietteHerz, and Friedrichand DorotheaSchlegel)
the kinship between his conceptionof religion and the philosophicalidealism which they embraced.
However in the text he also expressedscepticismaboutthe feasibilityof a 'religionof art',as conceived
such as W. H. Wackenroderand Hoffmann.
by Friihromantiker
8 FriedrichSCHLEIERMACHER,
On Religion:Speechesto Its CulturedDespisers,RichardCrouter
(ed., trans.),(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1996),112.
MusicalWritings,238.
9Hoffmann's

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

their contemporaries,of organic unity as seminal to the creation and interpretation of literatureand art.10
However it was the disparitybetween theirinterpretationsof organicismwhich
was reflected in the relationship between Schleiermacher's hermeneutics and
Hoffmann's 'musicalhermeneutics'.11The polaritybetween Schleiermacher'sconception of the organic unity of a text as the source of its definite meaning, and
Hoffmann'sattributionto the organicunity of a musical composition a metaphysical meaning, problematizesIan Bent's coupling of them as 'hermeneuticists',and
his suggestion that the 'musical hermeneutic'underpinning Hoffmann's 'Review
of Beethoven'sFifthSymphony' can be understood as a 'sophisticatedapplication
of the principlesof Schleiermacherto a piece of music'.12Schleiermacherconceived
his 'general hermeneutics' in contradistinctionto the specialized hermeneutics
practised in the eighteenth century to facilitatebiblical exegesis, Classical philology, and juridicialcriticism.13By contrastHoffmann'smusical hermeneuticshave
to be understood as part of an aesthetictradition,inauguratedby the philosophers
of the SturmundDrangmovement and developed by the Friihromantiker,
to which
the concept of organic unity, as a criterionfor the aesthetic evaluation of an art
work, was central.
II
It was Schleiermacher'srecognitionof the semanticindeterminacyof language
and of the multiple meanings of texts and verbalutteranceson which his formulation of a 'generalhermeneutics'was based. He criticizedthe 'specialhermeneutics'
10On the notion of
organicismin eighteenth and early-nineteenth-centurythought see M. H.
ABRAMS,TheMirrorand theLamp:RomanticTheoryand theCriticalTradition(Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1953),167-77,198-225;JamesBENZIGER,'OrganicUnity: Leibnizto Coleridge',PMLA66
Romanticism:
(1951),24-48;Q. S. TONG,Reconstructing
OrganicTheoryRevisited(Salzburg:Universityof
Salzburg,1997).
" lan Bent(ed.),MusicAnalysisin theNineteenthCentury,VolumeII:Hermeneutic
(CamApproaches
bridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1994),19. Bent refersto Hoffmann's'musicalhermeneutics'to
describethe method by which Hoffmanninterpretsmusicalcompositions.
A Hermeneutics
12Ibid.,19. Bentsubsequentlydeveloped this thesis in detailin 'Plato-Beethoven:
for Nineteenth-CenturyMusic?'in MusicTheoryin theAgeof Romanticism,
Ian Bent (ed.), (Cambridge:
CambridgeUniversityPress, 1996),105-24.
Hermeneutics:
TheHandwritten
95. This text contains notes
13 SCHLEIERMACHER,
Manuscripts,
and outlines of lectureswrittenbetween 1805and 1833,and 'TheAcademy Addresses of 1829:On the
Concept of Hermeneutics, with Reference to F. A. Wolf's Instructions and Ast's Textbook'. On
Schleiermacher'shermeneuticssee ErnstBEHLER,GermanRomanticLiteraryTheory(Cambridge:CamHermeneutics:
Hermeneutics
as
bridge University Press, 1993),260-82;Josef BLEICHER,
Contemporary
andCritique(London,Boston,and Henley:Routledge,1980);Bent(ed.),MusicAnalysis
Method,Philosophy,
in theNineteenthCentury,VolumeTwo:Hermeneutic
1-10;David E. KLEMM,Hermeneutical
Approaches,
Inquiry,VolumeOne:TheInterpretation
of Texts(Atlanta,Georgia:ScholarsPress, 1986);KurtMuellerVollmer(ed.), TheHermeneutics
Reader:
Textsof theGermanTradition
to thePresent
fromtheEnlightenment
andIts Discontents:
TheCriticalLegacyof
(Oxford:BasilBlackwell,1986);Azade SEYHAN,Representation
GermanRomanticism
(Berkeleyand Los Angeles:Universityof CaliforniaPress,1992),96-104.

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E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

practised during the eighteenth century in the disciplines of theology, philology,


and law because they were founded on the view that the interpretationof a text
'does not require art until it encounters something that does not make sense' that, for example, whilst the reader of Virgil's Aeneidwill have to confront the
philological problems of interpretingancientGreek,thereafterunderstandingwill
occur automatically.14In contradistinctionto this view, Schleiermacheradvocated
'a more rigorous practiceof the art of interpretationthat is based on the assumption that misunderstanding occurs as a matter of course, and so understanding
must be willed and sought at every point' when reading or conversing.15This was
in turn premised on his belief that there is no determinate link between a word
and concept or object,other than that which develops through consistent linguistic usage, and that thereforelanguage is inherently ambiguous.'6 He stated that
'language is infinite because every element is determinablein a special way by the
other elements' and 'every intuition of a person is itself infinite', from which he
deduced that 'the task of hermeneuticsis endless'.'7
By insisting on the necessity for 'artful'interpretation,as that which 'presupposes that the speaker and hearerdiffer in their use of language', Schleiermacher
endorsed the basic premise of the radical literary theory of his contemporaries:
that language is autonomous and devoid of any definite meaning.'"This view was
voiced by FriedrichSchlegel, who suggested that 'words often understand themselves better than do those who use them','9and it underpinned his conception of
'romanticpoetry', not as a specific literarygenre, but as an expression of spirituality which 'embraceseverything that is purely poetic' and the meaning of which
'should foreverbe becoming and never be perfected'.20It was throughthe creation
of literaryforms and the employment of techniqueswhich problematizeinterpretation that the Friihromantiker
gave expression to this conception of language and
created 'romanticpoetry' as it was conceived by Schlegel. This was illustratedby
the collections of literaryaphorisms,or 'fragments',they published, such as those
which appeared in the Athenaeumand the 'ExtremelyRandom Thoughts' which
Hoffmann included in Kreisleriana
(1814-15);and by the frequent punctuation of
TheHandwritten
67, 49.
Hermeneutics:
SCHLEIERMACHER,
Manuscripts,
1-Ibid.,110.
16 On Schleiermacher's
'Schematism
philosophyof languagesee FriedrichSCHLEIERMACHER,
andCriticism,Bowie (ed., trans.),269-80.
and Language'in IDEM,Hermeneutics
Hermeneutics:
TheHandwritten
17SCHLEIERMACHER,
Manuscripts,100,95.
18
Ibid.,110. On romanticliterarytheory see M. H. ABRAMS,TheMirrorand the Lamp;Behler,
andtheFormsofRuin:Wordsworth,
ThomasMcFARLAND,Romanticism
GermanRomanticLiteraryTheory;
andModalitiesof Fragmentation
(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1981);Ren6WELLEK,
Coleridge,
A Historyof ModernCriticism1750-1950,VolumeOne:TheLaterEighteenthCentury(Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1981);KathleenM. Wheeler(ed.), GermanAestheticandLiteraryCriticism:The
RomanticIronistsandGoethe(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1984).
19FriedrichSCHLEGEL,'On Incomprehensibility',trans.in GermanAestheticand LiteraryCriticism:TheRomanticIronistsandGoethe,Wheeler(ed.), 32-41(33).
20 FriedrichSCHLEGE1,
Philosophical
Fragments,PeterFirchow(trans.),(Minneapolis:University
of MinnesotaPress, 1991),31-2.
1

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002)1, 3--30

their texts with authorialinterpolations.21It was furtherillustratedin Hoffmann's


musical writings by the florid metaphoricalprose style through which he evoked
the metaphysicalmeaning of music, the lacunabetween words and their multiple
meaningsenablinghim to expressthatbetween 'thenumericalproportionsof music'
and 'the wonderful realm of the infinite' which they evoke in the works of a composer of genius.22
Schleiermacher'sengagement with the literarytheory of his contemporaries
has been the focus of recentcriticalcommentarieson his hermeneutics,which have
entailed a revision of the view, first expressed by Wilhelm Dilthey, of his
hermeneutic methodology as a means to discover the thoughts of an author as
inscribedin a text.23These commentarieshave focused on Schleiermacher'srecognition of the inherent ambiguity of language as the basis for postulating a kinship
between his hermeneuticmethodology and criticaltheory, a kinship expressed in
statementssuch as 'Schleiermacheranticipatescriticalpositions that parallelthose
of structuralism and poststructuralism',24 and 'Schleiermacherconverges with
Derrida'.25
Whilst such commentaries have helped to promote understanding of
Schleiermacher's engagement with the radical literary theory of other
and of the historical significance of aspects of his thought previFriihromantiker,
ously ignored, they have tended to gloss over the underlying premise of his
hermeneutic methodology: that inscribed in a text (or verbal utterance)is the intended meaning of the author(or speaker). This was reflectedin Schleiermacher's
formulationsof the purpose of his hermeneutics,which he expressed variously as
'the art of finding the precise sense [Sinn] of a given statement';as a means 'to
understand the text at first as well as and then even better than its author';and as
21
MusicalWritings,103-14;SCHLEGEL,
Forexamplesof early-romanticfragmentssee Hoffmann's
Philosophical
Fragments.
MusicalWritings,238,105. Thecontinuumin the historyof ideasbetween the thought
22Hoffmann's
and that of writersof the SturmundDrangmovement,or Geniezeit,is illustrated
of the Friihromantiker
by the importancethe notion of the artist as a 'genius' assumed in the aesthetic theory of each. For
backgroundto the history of the concept of genius see ABRAMS,TheMirrorand the Lamp,184-217;
RobertCURRIE,Genius:An Ideologyin Literature
(London:Chatto& Windus, 1974);John Hope MAAestheticsandtheReconSON, ThinkingAbout Geniusin the EighteenthCentury,in Eighteenth-Century
structionofArt,PaulMattick,Jr.(ed.),(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1993);PenelopeMurray
(ed.),Genius:TheHistoryofanIdea(Oxford:BasilBlackwell,1989);MiltonC. NAHM, GeniusandCreativity:An Essayin theHistoryof Ideas(New York:Harperand Row, 1965).
HermannMulert(ed.),vol. 1 (Berlin:Vereinigung
23See WilhelmDILTHEY,LebenSchleiermachers,
MartinRedeker(ed.), vol. 2 (Berlin:
wissenschaftlicherVerlager,1922);IDEM,LebenSchleiermachers,
Walterde Gruyter,1966). Dilthey's view of Schleiermacher'shermeneuticswas generallyvoiced by
commentatorsup until the late 1980s.
24 SEYHAN,Representation
andIts Discontents,100.
FromKantto Nietzsche(Manchester:Manchester
25 Andrew BOWIE,Aestheticsand Subjectivity:
to CriticalTheory:ThePhilosophy
of GerUniversityPress, 1990),161. See also IDEM,FromRomanticism
manLiteraryTheory(Londonand New York:Routledge,1997),104-37;TilottamaRAJAN,TheSupplein RomanticTheoryandPractice(Ithaca,New Yorkand London:
mentofReading:Figuresof Understanding
CornellUniversityPress, 1990).

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E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

a means to 'grasp the thinking that underlies a given statement'.26It was formulations such as these which were the point of departure for the interpretationof
Schleiermacher'shermeneutics presented by Dilthey and later commentators as
the basis for 'the re-cognitionof the sponsoring spiritual source of the work, a recognition made possible by the presence of this same spiritualsource in the interpreter'.27
Notwithstanding the difficulty of reconcilingSchleiermacher'sformulations
of the purpose of his hermeneuticswith his acknowledgment of the semantic ambiguity of language - a difficultyexacerbatedby his expressed belief that 'thereis
no thought without words' - his hermeneuticmethodology can, as Dilthey suggested, be understood as the counterpartto Schelling'stheoryof unconscious creation.2 As Dilthey commented, both thinkersembraced'the procedureof German
transcendentalphilosophy which reaches behind what is given in consciousness
to the creative capacity which, working harmoniously and unconscious of itself,
producesthe whole formof the world in us'." Thisis suggested by Schleiermacher's
emphasis on the necessity to delve into the authoror speaker'spsyche to ascertain
the origins of, or motivation for, their thoughts. He stated that 'in speaking something intensive is transformedinto something extensive'," and that:
Sincewe haveno directknowledgeof whatwas in theauthor'smind,we musttryto
becomeawareof manythingsof whichhehimselfmayhavebeenunconscious,except
insofaras he reflectson his own workandbecomeshis own reader.31
As Bent demonstrates in his exposition of Schleiermacher'shermeneutics,it
was Schleiermacher'sconception of its purpose, as a means 'to grasp the thinking
that underlies a given statement',which was reflectedin the methodology he outlined.32In accordance with his belief in the desirability of empathizing with the
author'sunconscious, Schleiermacherpresented 'psychological'interpretationas
the complement of 'grammatical'interpretationin the practice of hermeneutics,
stating that 'it is necessary to move back and forth between the grammaticaland
psychological sides' of interpretationin order to understand a text, 'because lan* SCHLEIERMACHER,
TheHandwritten
70, 112,97.
Hermeneutics:
Manuscripts,
E. T. A. Hoffmannand RomanticHermeneutics:An Interpretationof
2 David E. WELLBERY,
Hoffmann'sDon Juan,Studiesin Romanticism
19/4 (Winter1980),455-73(455).
28SCHLEIERMACHER,
Hermeneutics:
TheHandwritten
Manuscripts,193.
" WilhelmDILTHEY,W.Dilthey:SelectedWritings,Hans PeterRickman(ed., trans.),(Cambridge;
CambridgeUniversity Press, 1976),256. On Schelling'saesthetic thought see BOWIE,Aestheticsand
Subjectivity,80-114;FriedrichWilhelm Joseph SCHELLING,ThePhilosophyof Art, Douglas W. Stott
(ed., trans.),(Minneapolisand London:Universityof MinnesotaPress, 1989);GeorgeJ.SEIDEL,Creativity in the Aesthetics of Schelling,IdealisticStudies4 (1974),170-80;WELLEK,A Historyof Modern
Criticism1750-1950,VolumeTwo:TheRomanticAge(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1981),74-

82.

48.
TheHandwritten
Hermeneutics:
Manuscripts,
30SCHLEIERMACHER,
31Ibid.,112.
hermeneuticsis given in 'Plato-Beethoven'.
32Ibid.,97. Bent'sexpositionof Schleiermacher's

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITING
E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002)1, 3--30

guage can be learned only by understanding what is spoken, and because the inner make-up of a person [...] can only be understood from his speaking'.33 Likewise, he recommended that the 'comparative method', as a means of 'comparing
the text with others, and considering it in and for itself', should be practised alongside the 'divinatory method', as that which 'enables us rightly to reconstruct the
creative act that begins with the generation of thoughts which captivate the author'.3
The dialectical relationship Schleiermacher postulated between 'grammatical' and 'psychological' interpretation, and the 'comparative' and 'divinatory'
methods was premised on his organic view of texts. This found expression through
the principle, on which his methodology was based, of the hermeneutic circle: 'that
just as the whole is understood from the part, so the parts can be understood only
from the whole'.35 In accordance with this principle, Schleiermacher advised his
readers to seek to ascertain the meaning of individual words and sentences from
the broader context of the paragraphs and chapters in which they occur, and conversely to derive their understanding of an entire text from the interpretation of
its constituent elements.36
Schleiermacher also emphasized the importance of the extension of the principle of the hermeneutic circle as a means to understand a text as a part of the
author's whole ceuvreand within the broader socio-historical context of its production. As Bent comments:
Schleiermachertook a broadly organic view of any text: at all levels of construction
there is a whole, comprised of parts;and this relationapplies not only within the organic work itself, but also outside [...], to the work in relation to other works of its
class, to that class in relation to some larger class, to some body of knowledge, to a
given social context,and so forth.37
Accordingly, in his lecture notes, Schleiermacher emphasized that, in order to
'ascertain the thoughts of an author', 'one must know in which period an author
writes', and 'try to become the immediate reader of a text in order to understand
its allusions, its atmosphere, and its special field of images'.38 In so doing he expressed the view, held by a number of writers in the late-eighteenth and earlynineteenth centuries, that there is an organic relationship between a text and the
cultural-historical milieu in which it was written.39
3Ibid.,100.
34Ibid.,167, 192.
35Ibid.,196.
36 In 'Plato-Beethoven',Bent illustratesSchleiermacher'sprinciple of the hermeneuticcircle in
practiceby analyzing his introductionto the Sophist.See BENT,Plato-Beethoven,108-12.
37Ibid.,113.
Hermeneutic:
TheHandwritten
183,46, 43.
Manuscripts,
38SCHLEIERMACHER,
39This view was voiced by Herder,who in 1796stated that 'manhas been the same in all ages;but
he expressedhimself in each case accordingto the circumstancesin which he lived'. JohannGottfried
HERDER,Comparisonof the Poetryof VariousAncient and ModernPeoples: Conclusions,trans.in

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10

E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

ForSchleiermacherit was the organicunity of texts, as products of their time,


which ensured that,with 'artful'interpretation,the inherentambiguityof language
could be overcome to reveal the author's intended meaning. Thus even though
Schleiermacherhimself had contributed fragments to the Athenaeumin 1799, he
condemned texts couched in fragmentaryform as wholly inadequate as the basis
for communicating a coherent argument,stating that 'unity is the art of composition'.40This view of organic unity as a criterionfor the evaluation of a text was
indicative of Schleiermacher'sambivalencetowards his contemporaries'employment of fragment form as a means of problematizinginterpretation. Indeed his
conception of organic unity as an ideal was completely antitheticalto Schlegel's
ideal of 'romantic poetry' which is always 'in the state of becoming' - an ideal
realized in many of Hoffmann's writings.4'
III
Despite the unsuitabilityof Schleiermacher'shermeneuticsas a methodology
for the interpretationof Hoffmann'stexts, aspects of Hoffmann'sinterpretationof
musicalworks canbe understoodas an applicationof Schleiermacher'shermeneutic
principlesto musicallanguage. As Benthas shown, this is illustratedin Hoffmann's
'Review of Beethoven's FifthSymphony' by Hoffmann'semployment of the principle of the hermeneuticcircleas the basis for evaluating the symphony in relation
to those of Haydn and Mozart,and for examining its individual movements and
'the flow of the music from moment to moment' within the context of the entire
work.42Evidence that Hoffmann's use of the principle was more extensive than
this can be gleaned from a consideration,in accordancewith the spirit of the principle, of his review within the broadercontext of his musical aesthetics. Implicitin
the view Hoffmann presented in 'Old and New ChurchMusic' (1814)of the evolution of musical language as a corollaryof the evolution of the human spirit, and of
CenturyGermanCriticism,TimothyJ.Chamberlain(ed.), The GermanLibrary,vol. 11 (New
Eighteenth
York:Continuum, 1992), 164-9 (167). On the relationship between Herder and Schleiermacher's
im 18.
und ihreVorgeschichte
Hermeneutik
hermeneuticthought see Harold SCHNUR,Schleiermachers
zu Hamann,HerderundF. Schlegel(Stuttgart:VerlagJ.B. Metzler,
StudienzurBibelauslegung
Jahrhundert:
1994).
58. In a letterof 16June1799,
TheHandwritten
Hermeneutics:
Manuscripts,
40 SCHLEIERMACHER,
Schleiermachercommented on his contributionto the fragmentspublished anonymously in the Athenaeum. He wrote: 'The two Schlegels are editing a periodicalcalled the Athenaeum.In the second
a collectionof detachedthoughts[... ]. Among
numberof this thereare,underthe heading>>Fragments,<<
these [...] are several of mine, and I shall leave you to find out for yourself, when you see the paper,
as Unfolded
TheLifeof Schleiermacher,
which of them bear my impress'.FriedrichSCHLEIERMACHER,
andLetters,FredericaRowan (trans.),vol. 1 (London:Smith,Elderand Co., 1859),
in His Autobiography
216-17. He presenteda critiqueof fragmentaryformin the 'GeneralIntroduction'to his Germantransto theDialoguesof Plato,WilliamDobson
Introductions
lation of Plato's dialogues. See Schleiermacher's
(trans.),(Cambridge:Deighton, 1836;repr.New York:Arno Press, 1973),6-7.
32.
"1SCHLEGEL,
Philosophical
Fragments,
42
BENT,'Plato-Beethoven',116.

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the instrumental idiom of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven as 'a new art, whose
earliest beginnings can be traced only to the middle of the eighteenth century',43
was his endorsement of Schleiermacher'sview that 'an author is to be understood
in terms of his own age'.' Similarly Hoffmann's examination, throughout his
musical writings, of Beethoven'ssymphonies,his piano trios and concerti,his Mass
in C, and his overtures as constituent parts of the composer's entire weuvre,
entailed the employment of Schleiermacher's'comparativemethod' to facilitatethe
evaluation of individual works as expressionsof 'anauthor'sindividuality' and of
'the individuality of the nation and of the era'.45
However Hoffmann'smusical hermeneuticswere not premised on the notion
that inscribedin a musical work by the composeris a definite meaning, which can
be ascertained through the practiceof hermeneutics. Ratherin accordancewith
his recognition of the affinity between the semantic ambiguity of verbal language
and the metaphysical meaning of music, and his employment of the former to
express the latter,Hoffmann sought to enable the listener to actively engage with
the composer of genius's 'infiniteyearning'as expressed in his work. Hence there
was a cleardisparitybetween Hoffmann'shermeneuticgoal and Schleiermacher's
conception of hermeneutics,as 'the artof finding the precise sense [Sinn]of a given
statement'46- a disparity which calls into question Bent's 'hermeneuticistreading' of Hoffmann's 'Review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony'.47 Underpinning
Schleiermacherand Hoffmann's contrasting aims were their respective conceptions of organic unity.
Whilst music theorists of the late-eighteenthand early-nineteenthcenturies,
such as H. C. Koch,J. G. Sulzer, and F. N. Forkel,presented unity in diversity as a
criterionfor the evaluation of compositions, and acknowledged the organic relationship between related themes in a work, Hoffmann's 'Review of Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony' represented the first extended musical analysis of the thematic
structureof a work to be based on the conceptof organicism.4"This concept,which
has become a criticalcommonplacein musical analysis of the twentieth century,49
MusicalWritings,372.
43Hoffmann's
TheHandwritten
Hermeneutics:
44SCHLEIERMACHER,
Manuscripts,171.
45Ibid.,167,171.
46Ibid.,70.
47BENT,Plato-Beethoven,118.
4 On the
historyof musicalanalysis in the late-eighteenthand early-nineteenthcenturiessee Ian
BENTand William DRABKIN,Analysis(London:Macmillan,1987),6-36. Bent suggests that, whilst
Forkel's ilberJohannSebastianBachsLeben,KunstundKunstwerke
(1802)included 'nothingthatcould be
termed formalanalysis',thathe was 'muchinfluencedby the conceptof >organicism<<'
is exemplified
by his statementthat Bach's'[genius]enabledhim to develop out of a given subjecta whole family of
relatedand contrastedthemes, of every formand design'. Ibid.,32.
49 On the origins of the notion of organicismsee G. N. ORSINI,The Ancient Roots of a Modem
Idea,in OrganicForm:TheLifeofanIdea,GeorgeSebastianRousseau(ed.),(Londonand Boston:Routledge
& KeganPaul, 1972),8-23. On its importancein twentieth-centurymusical analysis and composition
see Carl DAHLHAUS,Some Models of Unity in MusicalForm,Journalof MusicTheory19/1 (Spring
1975),2-30;YorkHOLLER,Compositionof the Gestalt,or the Makingof the Organism,Contemporary
MusicReview1 (1984),35-40;VernonLee KLIEWER,
TheConceptof OrganicUnityin MusicCriticismand

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

was embodied in the review by Hoffmann's identification of the opening fournote 'fate' motive as the germ cell out of which the symphony develops into an
organicallyunified structure."?
However for Hoffmann the concept of organic unity was not merely an analytical premise, but rathera criterionfor the aestheticevaluation of a musical composition, because he conceived the structuralunity of a work of genius as the locus
of its metaphysicalmeaning. Justas he subscribedto Schlegel'sview thatthe meaning of a text is always 'in the state of becoming', so he conceived the organic unity
of a musical work as a catalyst through which the listener, as a 'passive genius',
can actively perpetuate, ratherthan merely recreate,the 'infiniteyearning' of the
composer of genius expressed within, and in so doing penetratea higher realm.51
This conception of organicism calls into question Bent's suggestion that, in
alternatingbetween technicalanalysis of the music and metaphoricaldescriptions
of its meaning, 'Hoffmann[...] shiftsfrequentlybetweenwhat Schleiermachercalled
the >>grammatical<<
and >>psychological<<'
sides of interpretationin order to ascertain Beethoven's intended meaning.52 It also problematizes Bent's attempts to
contextualize Hoffmann's historically significant musical hermeneuticswithin a
hermeneutic traditionhe rejected.
To appreciate the significance of Hoffmann's musical thought in the history
of ideas, his concept of organicunity needs to be understood within the context of
its literaryprehistoryin the aesthetic writings of the Sturmund Drangmovement,
and as a product of the philosophical idealism of the Friihromantiker,
of which the
aesthetic category of the sublime was an expression.

IV
The kinship between the aesthetic conception of organic unity adumbrated
by thinkers of the Sturmund Drangmovement such as Goethe and Herder, and
that conceived by Hoffmann,was a reflectionof the affinitybetween their respective philosophical outlooks. The attempts of Germanthinkersof the 1770s to forAnalysis(Ann Arbor:University Microfilms,Inc., 1961);Ruth SOLIE,The Living Work:Organicism
and MusicalAnalysis, 19th-Century
Music4/2 (Fall 1980),147-56.
50 The source of the epithet, the 'fate'motive, as a means to describethe
opening thematicidea of
Beethoven'sFifthSymphonywas the anecdote,reportedby Schindlerin 1840,accordingto which 'the
composerhimself [...] pointed to the beginningof the firstmovementand expressedin these words the
fundamentalidea of the work: >ThusFate knocks at the door!<'Anton SCHINDLER,Beethovenas I
KnewHim,Donald W. McArdle(trans.),(New York:Norton, 1966),147.
51
Hoffmann'sMusicalWritings,238. The term 'passive genius' was coined by Jean Paul in his
SchoolforAesthetics(1804)to describethe recipientof art who, whilst lackingcreativeability, is gifted
with the sensibility to appreciatethe metaphysicalmeaningof the art of genius. See JeanPaul RICHTER,Hornof Oberon:
JeanPaulRichter'sSchoolforAesthetics,MargaretR. Hale (trans.),(Detroit:Wayne
StateUniversityPress,1973),32. Thisidea was widely adoptedby Friihromantiker
like Hoffmann,who
suggested that 'Beethoven'smighty genius intimidatesthe musicalrabble',for whom 'the entranceto
MusicalWritings,98.
his innermostmysteriesremainsclosed'. Hoffmann's
52BENT,Plato-Beethoven,118.

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13

mulate a comprehensiveworld-view, accordingto which natureand art,and body


and soul are interrelatedphenomena emanatingfrom a common origin, resonated
in the philosophical idealism widely subscribed to by the FriUhromantiker.
Such
attemptswere reflectedin the eclecticintellectualinterestsof thinkersof the Sturm
und Drangmovement which informed their conception of organicism.
The wide range of Goethe's interests,as an author,criticof art and literature,
philosopher, botanist, and evolutionist, placed him in a prime position to appropriatescientific insights as the basis for aesthetic thought. His success in so doing
is illustrated by the fact that his conception of organicunity as an aesthetic ideal
had its origins in his botanicalstudies.
In the 1780s Goethe developed a theory of evolution based on the idea that
there are 'several different prototypical forms, or Urtypen',including 'an Urtier
for the fauna, and an Urpflanz(>>generating
for the
animal<<)
plant<<)
(>>generating
flora',from which all forms of life originate.53As Montgomeryhas demonstrated,
this theory was redolent of that expounded in the 1760sby the botanist and evolutionist Jean Baptiste Robinet, who conceived of 'a germ [cell, monad] that has a
naturaltendency towards self-development' as 'the generating element of all beings', and who suggested that 'every level of development produces a variationof
the prototype' and 'provides passage to a successive level'.M Both Goethe and
Robinetwere thereforeconcernednot merely to explore the interrelationshipsbetween diverse naturalphenomena, as the constituent parts of the entire universe,
but to create an evolutionary theory by identifying their common progenitor. Indeed, as Montgomery remarks,such theories 'constitutedthe eighteenth-century
armchairscientist's answer to Adam and Eve, based on a widely accepted concept
of an evolutionary >>chain
of being< that stretchedfrom the lowest monad in existence to God himself'.55
The sense of teleology latent in Goethe's conception of Urtypenrendered his
applicationof the results of his botanicalstudies to aestheticsa significantprecursor of Hoffmann's aestheticconcept of organicism. By contrastwith the centrality
of the principle of the hermeneuticcircleto Schleiermacher'sorganicview of texts,
expressed through the recurrenceof 'the metaphorof the shuttle [and] that of the
circle'in his lecture notes,mGoethe's comparisonsof art works to organisms enabled him to explore the artist's creative process, as the means by which an entire
work is developed out of one component part or structure.
The Myth of Organicism:FromBad Science to GreatArt, Musical
3 David L. MONTGOMERY,
Quarterly76/1 (Spring1992),17-36(18).
54Ibid.,18. Montgomeryalso acknowledgesthe influenceof the work of the Swedish botanistand
taxonomer,Carlvon Linnaeus,on Goethe'stheories,and thatof the Swiss biologist,CharlesBonnet,on
those of Robinet. Ibid.,20.
5 On the botanicalresearchof Goethe and his contemporaries,and its relationshipto their aesAestheticsand objectivityin the Study of Formin the Life
thetic thought see Philip C. RITTERBUSH,
Sciences,in OrganicForm:TheLifeofan Idea,Rousseau(ed.), 26-59.
56BENT,Plato-Beethoven,114.

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E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

14

Whilst this is most clearly illustratedin Goethe's article,'StrasbourgMinster'


(1812), the encomium of the Minster as an organically unified whole presented
therein had already been expressed by Goethe in an earlier article 'On German
Architecture'(1772),which he dedicated to the architectof the Minster,Erwinvon
Steinbach. In this he used natural imagery to describe the building as 'whole,
great, inherentlybeautiful to the last detail like God's trees',and as that which has
'thousands of branches and millions of twigs and as many leaves as sand by the
sea'.57 He admired its 'vast, harmonious masses animated by countless components', and suggested that, 'as in the works of eternalnature,down to the smallest
fiber, all is form, all serves the whole'.`5
Likewise in 'StrasbourgMinster'Goetheexpressed his view of the building as
'a work of art whose ensemble is conceived in large, simple, harmonious parts'.59
He admired the symmetry of the basic structureof the Minster,the faqadeof which
he divided 'up into nine fields', four either side of 'the great centraldoorway', in
which there are doors, windows, towers, and buttresses.6?Accordingly he observed that 'thereis [...] a beautiful relationshipbetween the height and the width
of the whole mass' and 'an harmonious relationshipbetween these divisions'.61
Goethe conceived the unified structuralfeaturesof the building as the Urtypen
of their decoration,as reflected in his statementthat 'we see each and every ornament appropriateto the partit decorates,subordinateto it and as if growing out of
it'.62He suggested that the parts of the building, enumeratedin his descriptionof
the faqade, 'have their particularcharacterderiving from their particularfunction', and that 'this characteris communicated step by step to the subordinate
parts'.63By way of illustrating this organic relationship between the structural
divisions of the building and their ornamentsGoethe described 'the artificialrose
growing out of the circle of the window', and 'the way every rib, every boss has
the form of a cluster of flowers or a spray of leaves or some other petrified natural
object'.64
Moreover,Goethe conceived the unity of the faqadeas the Urtypeof that of its
ornamentation. He suggested that since the structuralfeaturesof the Minster,as
the 'harmonious parts' of its 'ensemble', are unified, and since 'each and every
ornament' grows out of 'the part it decorates', it follows 'that the decoration is
harmonious throughout'.65Thus he drew to the attentionof his readers 'the links
57JohannWolfgang von GOETHE,On GermanArchitecture,trans.in IDEM,Essayson Art and
Literature,
John Gearey (ed.), Ellen von Nardroffand ErnestH. von Nardroff (trans.),Goethe's Collected Works,vol. 3 (Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1986),3-10 (3, 5).
5 Ibid.,6.
JohannWolfgang von GOETHE,StrasbourgMinster,trans.in Goetheon Art, JohnGage (ed.,
trans.),(Berkeleyand Los Angeles:Universityof CaliforniaPress, 1980),115-17(116).
60
61

Ibid.,115.
Ibid., 116.

116.
62Ibid.,
63Ibid.,116.

" Ibid.,116-17.
65Ibid.,116.

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15

between these ornaments,the bridge between one majormemberand another,the


interweaving of details similar,yet highly varied in theirform,from saints to monsters, from leaves to scallops'.66By portrayingthe structuralfeaturesof the building as the Urtypenof their ornamentation,and the unity of those features as the
Urtypeof that of the ornamentation,Goethe invoked the principle of 'unity in diversity' that was central to his neoclassical aesthetic, stating that 'such variety
gives us great enjoymentin that it derives from what is appropriate,and hence at
the same time arouses a feeling of unity'.67
As an application of his evolutionary theory to the discipline of aesthetics,
Goethe's comparison of art works to organisms was a means of expressing his
philosophical outlook, insofar as it formed the basis for a metaphysical aesthetic.
Just as he conceived the Urpflanzas a tangible representationof God's intentions,
the discovery of which would enable one to 'invent plants ad infinitum that will
eventually come to be',68so he viewed art as 'anothernature, also mysterious like
her' and as a manifestationof the infinite in the finite.69In 'StrasbourgMinster'he
suggested that, in the facade of the building there is 'a union of the sublime and
the merely pleasing', and, in so doing, alluded to the view expounded in 'On German Architecture'of the complexity of the Minster as sublime.70 In the earlier
articlehe described how
unexpectedemotionsseizedme whenI finallystoodbeforetheedifice!Mysoul was

suffused with a feeling of immense grandeurwhich, because it consisted of thousands


of harmonizing details, I was able to savour and enjoy, but by no means understand
and explain. They say it is thus with the joys of heaven, and how often I returnedto
savor such joys on earth, to embracethe gigantic spirit expressed in the work of our
brothers of yore! [...] It is hard for the mind of man when his brother'swork is so
sublime that he can only bow his head and worship.71

Goethe's view of the organic unity of the Minster as sublime supported his

rallying cry 'to change the hitherto disparaging term >>Gothicstyle of building<, so
as to vindicate our nation with the title >>GermanArchitectureo'.nHe refuted 'all
66Ibid.,117.
67Ibid.,116. On Goethe'sNeo-Classicalaestheticsee WalterHoraceBRUFORD,CultureandSoci1775-1806(London:CambridgeUniversityPress,1962);FrancisJohnLAMPORT,
etyin ClassicalWeimar,
GermanClassicalDrama:Theatre,Humanity,andNation,1750-1870(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity
Press, 1990);TerenceJamesREED,TheClassicalCentre:Goetheand Weimar,1775-1832(London:Crook
Helm, 1980).
6
The Mythof
JohannWolfgangvon GOETHE,Letterof 17May 1787;trans.in MONTGOMERY,
Organicism,21.
69 JohannWolfgang von GOETHE,Maxims and Reflections,trans. in Art in Theory1815-1900,
Harrison,Wood, and Gaiger(eds.), 74-8 (75). Goethestated: 'Natureworks her effects in accordance
with laws she gave herselfin harmoniousagreementwith the creator,art works her effects in accordance with rules she has agreed upon with the genius'. Ibid.,75.
7 GOETHE,StrasbourgMinster,115. I returnto discuss the aestheticcategory of the sublime
laterin this article.
71GOETHE,On GermanArchitecture,6.
72n
GOETHE,StrasbourgMinster,117.

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E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

the synonymous misconceptions' of the term Gothic 'as indefinite, disorganized,


unnatural,patched-together,tacked-on,overladen',misconceptionshe associated
particularlywith the Frenchand Italians,and defended the aesthetic merit of the
Minster, not merely by dint of the harmony of its ornamentationand its inner
coherence,but by virtue of its transcendentalmeaning.73In 'StrasbourgMinster'
he recalledhow, 'havinggrown up among the criticsof Gothicarchitecture,I nursed
a distaste for its frequently overladen and confused ornament, whose arbitrary
characterincreased the repugnance I felt for the gloomy religious aspect of the
style'.74However he then described how he 'experienceda revelation', and discovered 'greatermerits' in the Minster,the 'smallest detail' of which proved to be
'as meaningful as it was rich'.7sGoethe's portrayalof his aesthetic appreciationof
the Minster as a quasi-religious experience that is contingent upon 'revelation'
was a reflectionof the metaphysicalmeaning he attributedto the organic unity of
art.
Like that of Goethe, Herder's conception of the organic unity of a work as a
criterionfor its aesthetic evaluation was both an expression of his philosophical
world-view and the basis for his vindicationof works of artpreviously denigrated.
This is illustrated in his articleon 'Shakespeare'(1773),in which he expressed his
admirationfor the dramatist'sability to combine 'the estates and the individuals,
the different peoples and styles of speech, the kings and fools, [...] into a splendid
poetic whole', and, like Goethe, suggested that the diversity of elements within a
work emanate from a common origin.76Thus in his comments on KingLear,he
used natural imagery to describe the unity of the play, of which 'the very first
scene already bears within its seed the harvest of [Lear's]fate in the dark future',
and in which 'all the incidental circumstances,motives, characters,and situations
concentratedinto the poetic work' are 'all developing into a whole'.77
Herder's attributionto the organic unity of a work a metaphysical meaning
can be understood in relation to his interest in the nature pantheism of Spinoza.78
He identified 'one main feeling prevailing in each drama,pulsing through it like a
world soul', and suggested that:
Theentireworldis butthebodyto [Shakespeare's]
greatspirit.All thescenesof Naandstylesof thoughtarethe
turearethe limbsof thebody,evenas all thecharacters
featuresof this spirit- and the wholemightwell bearthe nameof Spinoza'sgiant
god:Pan!Universum!79
3 GOETHE,On GermanArchitecture,5.
74GOETHE,
StrasbourgMinster,117.
75Ibid.,117.
76 Johann Gottfried HERDER,Shakespeare,trans. in GermanAestheticand LiteraryCriticism:
Winckelmann,
Lessing,Hamann,Herder,Schiller,Goethe,H. B. Nisbet (ed.), (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1985),161-76(168).
77Ibid.,169.
78Herder's Spinozist sympathies,which he openly declaredin the 1780s,informedevery aspect
of his thought,in particularhis view of religion,his organicconceptionof nationhood,and his aesthetic
sharedhis enthusiasmfor Spinoza'spantheism.
and literarycriticism. Many of the Friihromantiker
79HERDER,Shakespeare,172.

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Accordingly Herder presented Shakespeare'sfidelity to the prevailing Zeitgeistas the source of the metaphysicalmeaning of his plays, insofaras Shakespeare
created 'a dramaticoeuvre out of [the] raw material'of his age 'as naturally,impressively, and originally as the Greeks did from theirs'." Herder maintained
that'when [Shakespeare]rolledhis greatworld events and humandestiniesthrough
all the places and times - where they took place', he was 'true to Nature' and
expressed his ideas with 'authenticity,truth, and historicalcreativity'.8l
Herderconceived the organicunity of the plays themselves- in which Shakespeare 'embracesa hundred scenes of a world event in his arms, composes them
with his glance, [and] breathes into them an all-animatingsoul' - and their organic relationship to 'the soil of the age', as the basis for his defence of Shakespeare's dramas against the criticismof the French.82He contrastedthem with the
neoclassicaltragediesof writerssuch as Corneille,Racine,and Voltaire,who rather
than striving to express the 'world soul' of the eighteenth century, merely 'ape
ancient drama' by adhering to the Classicalprincipleof the three unities - 'unity
of time, place, action' - to create a 'stuffed likeness of the Greek theatre'.83He
rejectedthe idea, which he attributedto the French,of ancient Greek tragedy as
the yardstick against which to evaluate all drama,and suggested that the organic
unity of Shakespeare'splays, as the basis for his expression of the 'world soul',
renders them of equal aesthetic merit.
V
The continuity in the history of ideas between Goethe and Herder's aesthetic
conception of organicism and that of Hoffmann is suggested by its 'ideological
resonance' in the writings of all three.84Goethe's view of the unity in diversity
displayed in StrasbourgMinsteras sublime enabled him to justify his favourable
evaluation of Gothic architectureas 'Germanarchitecture',despite its divergence
from the 'generalnotions of good taste' of the Frenchand Italians,- and Herder's
defence of Shakespeare'sdramasas organicallyunified works of art representeda
riposteto those Frenchcriticswho compared them unfavourablyto 'the great classical tragedies of Sophocles, Euripides, Corneille, and Voltaire'.s6 Likewise
Hoffmann's view of organic unity as an aesthetic ideal underpinned his justification of instrumental music, and specifically the genre of the symphony, as 'the
Thisconstituteda rejoinderto the view, centralto learned
most romanticof all arts'.87
80Ibid.,167.
81HERDER, Shakespeare, 172.

82Ibid.,169-70,167.
Ibid.,167, 165.
8
Joseph KERMAN,How We Got into Analysis, and How to Get Out, CriticalInquiry7 (Winter
1980),311-31(315).
"IGOETHE,On GermanArchitecture,8, 5.
86HERDER,Shakespeare,161.
MusicalWritings,236.
7 Hoffmann's
8

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

musical taste in the eighteenth century, of instrumental music as 'more an agreeable than a fine art' that lacks any definite meaning.m
Hoffmann attributed aesthetic value to the organic unity of compositions because he interpreted the formal coherence of works such as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as a manifestation of the composer's 'rational awareness'.89 In accordance
with his view of a genius, as an artist gifted with both 'divine inspiration' and
'rational awareness', Hoffmann stated, in what is possibly an intertextual reference to Herder's article, that:
Justas our aestheticoverseers have often complained of a total lack of real unity and
innercoherencein Shakespeare,when only profoundercontemplationshows the splendid tree, buds and leaves, blossom and fruitas springing from the same seed, so only
the most penetratingstudy of Beethoven'smusic can reveal its high level of rational
awareness, which is inseparablefrom true genius and nourishedby continuingstudy
of the art.90
In comparing Beethoven's music to Shakespeare's dramas, Hoffmann followed
Herder in presenting organic unity as a source of aesthetic merit, and, in conceiving such unity as a manifestation of the composer's 'rational awareness', defended
Beethoven against those who 'regard his works merely as products of a genius
who ignores form and discrimination of thought'.91 In so doing Hoffmann, like
Schleiermacher, emphasized the necessity for 'artful' interpretation and, insofar as
he conceived the music itself as an embodiment of the composer's 'rational awareness', advocated the practice of both 'grammatical' and 'psychological' interpretation simultaneously.
However Hoffmann's suggestion that Beethoven's 'rational awareness' was
manifest in 'the way works such as [his] Fifth Symphony seem to grow from a
single theme as though from a Goethean Urpflanz', the development of which
reveals the composer's creative process, represented a significant point of depar8 ImmanuelKANT,Critiqueof Judgment,
WernerS. Pluhar(trans.),(Indianapolis:HackettPublishing, 1987), 203, ? 54. On musical taste in the eighteenth century see EnricoFUBINI,Music and
Culturein Eighteenth-Century
Europe:A SourceBook,BonnieJ. Blackburn(ed.), (Chicagoand London:
(Cambridge:
University of Chicago Press, 1994);BernardHARRISON,Haydn:The'Paris'Symphonies
Musicin
CambridgeUniversityPress,1998);BellamyHOSLER,ChangingAestheticViewsofInstrumental
(AnnArbor:UniversityMicrofilmsInc.,1981);JohnNEUBAUER,TheEmanGermany
Eighteenth-Century
Aesthetics(New Haven:
fromMimesisin Eighteenth-Century
Departures
cipationof MusicfromLanguage:
Yale University Press, 1986);MarySue MORROW,GermanMusicCriticismin the LateEighteenthCenMusic (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1997);William
tury:AestheticIssuesin Instrumental
WEBER,Learnedand GeneralMusicalTaste in Eighteenth-CenturyFrance,Past and Present89 (November 1980), 58-85;William WEBER,The Contemporaneityof Eighteenth-CenturyMusical Taste,
MusicalQuarterly70/2 (Spring1984),175-94.
MusicalWritings,238.
89Hoffmann's
90Ibid.,238-9. The possibilitythatthis passagewas inspiredby Herder'sarticleis strengthenedby
Hoffmann's use of natural imagery. For a detailed study of referencesto Shakespeare'sworks in
Hoffmann'swritings see FrancisJ. NOCK,E. T. A. Hoffmannand Shakespeare,Journalof Englishand
Germanic
Philology53 (1954),369-82.
91
Hoffmann'sMusicalWritings,238.

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19

ture from Schleiermacher'sorganic view of texts.92Whilst, like Schleiermacher,


Hoffmann was concerned to examine the 'dialecticalrelationbetween whole and
parts' of the work, he followed Goethe in identifying one component part as the
germ cell of the whole and in exploring creativityas a teleological process.93
This is clearly exemplified in Hoffmann's 'Review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony' by his presentation of the opening four-note motive as that 'on which
Beethoven has based his entire Allegro'.94In a detailed analysis of the first movement, Hoffmann demonstrated'how [Beethoven]was able to relateall the secondary ideas and episodes by theirrhythmiccontent to this simple theme'.95He drew
to the attention of his readersthe imitation of this theme between the violins and
the violas throughout the first43 bars,during which 'the bass here and there adds
a figure that also copies it', and to the 'tutti' in bar 44, 'the theme of which again
follows the rhythmicpatternof the main idea and is closely relatedto it'.96He then
went on to describehow, at the commencementof the second subjectin bar59, 'the
horn again imitates the main idea' in the key of E flat major,and how from bar 65
onwards 'the cellos and basses interjectthe imitatingfigure previously referredto,
so that the new theme is artfullywoven into the overall texture'.97He noted that
'the second half [of the first movement] begins with the main theme again, in its
original form, but transposed up a third and played on clarinetsand horns', and
that 'the various elements of the first half follow'.98 In this narrativeHoffmann
aimed to show that the organic unity of the first movement can be attributedto
Beethoven's development of the opening four-note motive, and that it can therefore be cited as evidence of 'the composer's rational genius'." Accordingly he
stated that:
92KERMAN,How We Got into Analysis,316.
93BENT,Plato-Beethoven,113.
MusicalWritings,244.
94Hoffmann's
95Ibid.,244. In an article linking Beethoven'suse of 'cell structures'to the music of 'primitive
cultures',SmithBrindledescribesthis movement'asa vast proliferationof this single cell, like a widelyspreadingself-reproductiveliving organism'. He notes that:'Ofthe 502barsof this movement,thereis
only a sparsescatteringof some fiftyor so in which the upbeatmotive is not eitherthe whole coreof the
musical discourse or an underlying foundation'. ReginaldSmith BRINDLE,'Beethoven'sPrimitive
Cell Structures',MusicalTimes139/1865 (Winter1998),18-24(18-19).
MusicalWritings,241. Barnumbersreferto Ludwig van Beethoven,SymphonyNo. 5
96Hoffmann's
in C Minor,ElliotForbes(ed.), NortonCriticalScore (London:Chappell,1971).
7 Hoffmann'sMusicalWritings,241. The organic relationshipbetween the first and second subjects of the first movement, to which Hoffmann refers, is based on intervallicexpansion. The two
descending thirds of the first subject(G-Eflat and F-D) are transformedinto two descending perfect
fifths in the second subject(Bflat-Eflat and F-Bflat),with two notes (E flatand F) common to both. In
his analysis of the first movementof the symphony in DerTonwilleI (1921),Schenkersuggests that,in
view of this organic relationshipbetween the first and second subjects,'the main motive of the first
movement is not, as has been erroneouslyassumeduntil now, merelythe two pitchesof mm. 1 and 2 of
the score,but ratherthe combinationof fourpitchesin mm. 1-5'. HeinrichSCHENKER,
Analysis of the
FirstMovement,in Beethoven,SymphonyNo. 5, Forbes(ed.), 164-82(164-5).
"
MusicalWritings,241. See bar 125.
Hoffmann's
99Ibid., 251.

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

20

Quite apartfrom the fact that the contrapuntaltreatmentbetokens profound study of


the art, the episodes and constant allusions to the main theme demonstratehow the
whole movement with all its distinctive featureswas not merely conceived in the imagination but also clearly thought through.'00
Hoffmann went on to suggest that Beethoven's four-note motive did not merely
serve as the germ cell of the first movement, but that it was pervasive throughout
the entire symphony as an organic entity. Thus through the application of
Schleiermacher's technique of comparing 'parallel passages' to the interpretation
of music, Hoffmann postulated an affinity between the principal themes of the
first and third movements. He attributed their kinship to the developmental potential of each, stating that:
Justas simple and yet, when it is glimpsed behind laterpassages, just as potent as the
theme of the opening Allegro is the idea of the minuet's first tutti.1'0
He also noted that, at the end of the development section of the final Allegro,
'the simple theme of the minuet now returns for fifty-four bars, in the last two of
which the transition from the minuet to the Allegro is repeated in a condensed
form';102 that in bar 363 of the recapitulation, 'the bass figure is the same as that in
the twenty-eighth bar of the first movement Allegro, which vividly recalls the main
theme [...] by virtue of its close rhythmic relationship to it';'03 and that the 'detached chords and rests' of the last thirteen bars of the final movement 'recall the
separate strokes in the symphony's [first movement] Allegro'.'04 In so doing
Hoffmann illustrated 'the close relationship of the individual themes to each other',
and the pervasive presence of the opening four-note motive throughout the third
and fourth movements.'05
Hoffmann's conception of organic unity as an analytical premise also served
as the basis for his 'Review of Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 70 Nos. 1 and 2' (1813),
in which he suggested that 'a simple but fruitful and lyrical theme, susceptible of
the most varied contrapuntal treatments, abbreviations, etc., forms the basis of
every movement' of the trios, and that 'all the secondary themes and figures are
closely related to the main idea [...] so as to produce the utmost unity between all
the instruments'.'" Accordingly in Hoffmann's analysis of the Piano Trio, Op. 70
No. 1, he aimed to show how, in the first movement, 'the genius of the music [...]
100
Ibid.,244.

Ibid.,248. Hoffmannrefersto the thirdmovementof the symphony,which Beethovenheaded


o01
'Allegro',as the 'minuet'. For 'the idea of the minuet'sfirst tutti' see bar 27.
102Ibid.,249. See bars 153-206.
'3 Ibid.,250.
o Ibid.,250. Charltonnotes that 'hereHoffmannappearsto recallthe first movement progresMusicalWritings,250.
sion at bar 196'. Charlton(ed.), Hoffmann's
01,
Hoffmann'sMusicalWritings,250. I returnsubsequentlyto consider how Hoffmannjustifies
Beethoven'sinclusion of the second movementin the symphony as an organicallyunified art work.
06Ibid.,303.

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

21

emerges in its very diversity of contrapuntaltreatmentsof a short,straightforward


theme', which is presented in the first four bars of the work.'07Likewise he suggested that in the second movement, the first 'few harmonicallyfertile bars again
contain the material from which the whole movement is fashioned', and that 'the
closing movement [...] again has a short, original theme that appears in a constant
alternation of various transformationsand ingenious allusions throughout the
piece'.'08Similarly,Hoffmannstated that the firstmovement of Beethoven'sPiano
Trio, Op. 70 No. 2 'evinces the master's boundless wealth of invention and his
penetrationof the harmonicdepths', insofar as 'froma single idea a few bars long
so many motives are generated, springing from it like the luxuriantblossom and
fruit of a fertile tree'.'"
Just as in Hoffmann's 'Review of Beethoven'sFifthSymphony' he employed
naturalimagery to express the rhythmicand thematic unity of the work, so in his
'Review of Beethoven's Piano Trios,Op. 70' he invoked organic metaphors to express their harmonicand thematicunity. This calls into question Scott Burnham's
suggestion that within Hoffmann'smusic criticism 'counterpointis treatedas the
element of music most directly amenable to metaphoricalcomparisons with the
organic growth of plant life'."0Clearlywhilst Hoffmannreferredto imitationas a
source of the unity of the Fifth Symphony, and to 'the most varied contrapuntal
treatments'of themes in Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 70, he conceived all of the
constituent elements of music as sources of musical unity, and Beethoven's manipulation of these elements as evidence of his 'rationalawareness'."'
VI
The kinship between Goethe and Herder'saesthetic concept of organicunity
and that of Hoffmann is derived not merely from its use in their writings as an
analyticalpremise which facilitatesunderstandingof the artist'screative process,
but also from their invocation of organicismas a criterionfor the aesthetic evaluation of art. Hoffmann viewed the organic unity of a work as the source of its
metaphysicalmeaning, a view redolentof that expounded by Goethe and Herder,
and contrastedby Schleiermacher'sorganicview of texts as loci of definite meanings.
For Hoffmann, as for Goethe and Herder, the organic unity of an art work
representeda tangible embodiment of the kinship between art and nature which
was central to the philosophical world-view of all three writers. Hoffmann engaged with the view of nature,as a manifestationof the infinite in the finite, pre'7 Ibid.,308.
108
Ibid.,309-10.
'09Ibid.., 315.

110Scott

MusicalWritings,Charlton(ed.), 19th-Century
Music
BURNHAM,review of Hoffmann's
14/3 (Spring1991),286-96(294).
"' Hoffmann'sMusical Writings, 303.

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22

A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3-30

sented by contemporarythinkerssuch as Schleiermacher,Hegel, and Schelling,112


and with the concomitantview of artas 'secondnature'presentedby Wackenroder,
Novalis, and FriedrichSchlegel, amongst others.113This view of nature and art as
'two wonderful languages through which the Creatorhas permitted human beings to perceive and to comprehendheavenly things in their full force'was articulated by the FrUihromantiker
through the aesthetic category of the sublime, and it
was this which enabled Hoffmann to justify attributingto the organic unity of a
work a metaphysical meaning.'14
In A Philosophical
EnquiryintotheOriginof OurIdeasof theSublimeandtheBeautiful(1757),one of the principaleighteenth-centurytreatiseson the concept,Edmund
Burkeconceived the sublime as a source of 'delight',which he defined as 'the sensation which accompaniesthe removal of pain or danger',as opposed to the 'positive pleasure' to which the experience of beauty gives rise."' Whilst he conceded
that 'when danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible',he maintained that 'at certain distances, and with
certainmodifications, they [...] are delightful, as we everyday experience'."6Accordingly he suggested that 'whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of
pain, and danger, [...] is a source of the sublime', because the rationalexperience
of 'ideas of pain', as opposed to its physiological reality, enables one to engage
vicariously with 'the passions which concern self-preservation'."7
Likewise in the CritiqueofJudgment(1790)ImmanuelKant,the other principal
eighteenth-centurycommentatoron the sublime, suggested that it is 'a negative
pleasure' which, by contrastwith the 'positive pleasure'which the beautiful gives
rise to, 'is produced by the feeling of a momentary inhibition of the vital forces
followed immediately by an outpouring of them that is all the stronger'."8 He
conceived the sublime as 'the arousal in us of the feeling that we have within us a
12The independence of Schleiermacher'sorganic view of texts from his view of naturecan be
understood as a reflectionof the irreconcilabilityof his aesthetic and hermeneuticthought and his
conceptionof religion,discussion of which lies beyond the scope of this article.
TheRomanticIronistsandGoethe,
13NOVALIS,On Goethe,GermanAestheticandLiteraryCriticism:
Wheeler(ed.), 102-8(107).
114 Wilhelm
andFantasies,
HeinrichWackenroder's
Confessions
MaryHurstSchubert(ed., trans.),(University Parkand London:PennsylvaniaStateUniversityPress,1971),18. On the sublime see Andrew
Ashfield and Peter De Bolla (eds.), TheSublime:A Readerin BritishEighteenth-Century
AestheticTheory
(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1996);PeterDe BOLLA,TheDiscourseoftheSublime:Readings
in History,Aesthetics,and the Subject(Oxford:Basil Blackwell,1989);Carl DAHLHAUS,Ludwigvan
tohisMusic,MaryWhittall(trans.),(Oxford:ClarendonPress,1989),67-76;David
Beethoven:
Approaches
26 (Summer1987),245-58.
SIMPSON,Commentaryon the Sublime,Studiesin Romanticism
115EdmundBURKE,A Philosophical
EnquiryintotheOriginof OurIdeasof theSublimeandtheBeautiful,Adam Phillips (ed.), (Oxfordand New York:OxfordUniversityPress, 1990),34.
"6 Ibid.,36-7.
117Ibid.,36.
118
98, 1 23. On Kant'sconceptionof the sublimesee PaulCROWTHER,
KANT,Critique
ofJudgment,
TheKantianSublime:FromMoralityto Art (Oxford:ClarendonPress, 1989);Eva SCHAPER,Taste,Subto Kant,Paul Guyer
Companion
limity, and Genius:The Aestheticsof Natureand Art, in TheCambridge
(ed.), (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1992),367-93.

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

23

supersensiblepower' and 'of our superiorityto nature',which enables us 'to judge


nature without fear and to think of our vocation as being sublimely above nature'.119

Burke and Kant's conception of the sublime as an aesthetic category used to


explain our experience of naturerepresenteda departurefrom its origins in Classical antiquity as a categoryof rhetoric.120Burkeidentified characteristicsof natural phenomena as loci of the sublime, such as 'vastness' and 'littleness', since 'as
the great extreme of dimension is sublime, so the last extreme of littleness is in
some measure sublime likewise';121 'magnificence', such as that of 'the starry
heaven';122
'infinity and eternity',since 'thereis nothing of which we really understand so little';'23and 'obscurity',as exemplified by 'how greatly night adds to our
dread, in all cases of danger, and how much the notions of ghosts and goblins, of
which none can form clear ideas, affectminds'.124 Burkedid concede the possibility of art as a manifestationof the sublime, but only insofaras it assumes the characteristics of the sublime in nature.'2 Thus he interpreted Milton's 'portraitof
Satan' in ParadiseLostas a 'sublime description' by virtue of its complexity and
attendantobscurity,arguing that 'the mind is hurriedout of itself, by a croud [sic]
of great and confused images; which affect because they are crouded and confused'.126

Similarly,Kant focused on 'the sublime in naturalobjects (since the sublime


in art is always confined to the conditions that [art]must meet to be in harmony
with nature)',and, like Burke,identified naturalphenomena and theircharacteristics as sublime.127 He conceived aspects of nature 'in comparisonwith which everything else is small', such as 'the infinite',as 'mathematicallysublime','28and, in a
famous passage in which he described aspects of nature which arouse awe and
fear, evoked the 'dynamicallysublime':
Considerbold,overhangingand,as it were,threatening
rocks,thunderclouds
piling
volcaup in the sky and movingaboutaccompanied
by lightningandthunderclaps,
noes with all theirdestructivepower,hurricanes
with all the devastationthey leave
behind,theboundlessoceanheavedup, the highwaterfallof a mightyriver,and so
on.'29
KANT,CritiqueofJudgment,106,? 25, 123,? 28.
"119
120The sublimewas originallycodified in a first-centuryGreektreatise,purportedlyby Longinus.
See ClassicalLiteraryCriticism:Aristotleon theArt of Poetry,Horaceon theArt of Poetry,Longinuson the
Sublime,T. S. Dorsch (trans.),(London:Penguin, 1965).
121 BURKE,
A Philosophical
Enquiryinto theOriginof OurIdeasof theSublimeandtheBeautiful,66.

Ibid.,71.
'122
123
Ibid.,57.
124
Ibid.,54.

artists,such as CasparDavid Friedrich(1774-1840)and J. M.


'25Severalearly-nineteenth-century
W. Turner(1775-1851),sought to evoke the sublime in theirpaintings.
EnquiryintotheOriginof OurIdeasof theSublimeandtheBeautiful,57.
'26BURKE,A Philosophical
127
KANT,CritiqueofJudgment,
98, ? 23.
128Ibid..,105,? 25, 111,? 26.
'" Ibid.,120,? 28.

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24

E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

However it was Kant'sdeparturefrom Burke's'empiricistaccountof the sublime', and from his own empirical Observationson the Feelingof the Beautifuland
Sublime(1764), that rendered his exposition of the concept in the Critiqueof Judgmenta significant precursorof Hoffmann'sunderstandingof the sublime.'30Kant
stated that, in contradistinctionto 'the beautiful in nature', for 'which we must
seek a basis outside ourselves', 'truesublimity must be sought only in the mind of
the judging person, not in the natural object the judging of which prompts this
mental attunement',because 'what is sublime [...] cannot be contained in any sensible form but concernsonly ideas of reason [...]which can be exhibited in sensibility'.131
with the philosophicalidealismof thinkTheengagementof the Friihromantiker
ers like Kant,and their endorsementof the view of the vastness and magnitude of
natureas awe-inspiring, led them to appropriatethe aestheticcategory of the sublime to justify their view of art as a metaphysical medium which, like nature, facilitates spiritual experience. In particular,the sublime provided a basis for the
aestheticjustificationof instrumentalmusic insofar as it legitimized 'the >indeterminacy< of symphonic expression as a sounding symbol of >endless longing< and
>intimation of the absolute<<',ratherthan as a weakness inherentin the medium.'32
In the article on the 'Symphony' in J. G. Sulzer's AllgemeineTheorieder sch6nen
Kiinste(1771-4), J. A. P. Schulz invoked the sublime to defend the evasion of
conceived as the perogative of the
compositional rules which the Friihromantiker
to
aesthetic
to
lend
and
credibility aspects of music which many eightgenius,
as unnaturaland artificial,such as councondemned
commentators
eenth-century
that:
stated
Schulz
terpoint.'33
Thesymphonyis excellentlysuitedfortheexpressionof thegrand,thefestive,andthe
sublime.[...]Theallegrosof thebestchambersymphoniescontaingreatandboldideas,
freehandlingof compositions,
seemingdisorderin themelodyandharmony,strongly
markedrhythmsof differentkinds,powerfulbass melodiesand unisons,concerted
middlevoices,freeimitations,oftena themethatis handledin themannerof a fugue,
'0 Pluhar(trans.),Critique
ofJudgment,
by Kant,lxix. My reasonsforidentifyingKant'sdeparture
from a purely empiricalconceptionof the sublime as a significantprecursorof that of Hoffmannwill
become apparentlater in this article.
'~' KANT,Critique
ofJudgment,100,? 23, 113,? 26, 99, ? 23.
and London:
-32Carl DAHLHAUS,TheIdeaof AbsoluteMusic, Roger Lustig (trans.),(Chicago
Universityof Chicago Press, 1989),57.
"'3The unfavourableview of
counterpointas artificial,widely subscribedto by eighteenth-century musicalcommentators,was reflectedin the articleson J.S. Bach'smusic published in the journal,
DercritischeMusikus,from 1737to 1740. In one such articleJ.A. Scheibewrote:'Thisgreatman would
be the admirationof entirenationsif he had more plesantness,and if he did not allow a bombasticand
confusedstyle to suffocatenaturalnessin his pieces, or obscuretheirbeauty throughexcessive artifice.
[...] Pompousness has led both from naturalnessto artificiality,from sublimityto obscurity'. Johann
Adolf SCHEIBE,DercritischeMusikus6 (May 1737);trans.in FUBINI,MusicandCulture,272.

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A. CHANTLER,
REVISITING
E.T.A.HOFFMANN,
IRASM33 (2002)1, 3--30

25

sudden transitionsand digressionsfromone key to another[...] strongshadings of the


forte and piano, and chiefly of the crescendo.'3'
Hoffmann's endorsement of the new acceptability of counterpoint as sublime
was expressed in his comparison, in 'Extremely Random Thoughts', of Bach's music
with Strasbourg Minster, a comparison which, as Charlton notes, 'takes up Goethe's
eulogy of Gothic style'.135 Hoffmann wrote:
I see in Bach'seight-partmotets the wonderfullybold, romanticstructureof the cathedral rising proudly and gloriously into the air,with all its fantasticornamentsartfully
blended into the whole.'"
This fragment is suggestive of Hoffmann's view of organic unity as sublime
insofar as he attributed to the contrapuntal development of a musical motive a
metaphysical meaning. This is also suggested in his 'Review of Beethoven's Fifth
Symphony' by his description of how, in the first movement, 'all the phrases are
short, consisting of merely two or three bars, and are also constantly exchanged
between strings and winds', and how 'it is precisely this overall pattern, and the
constant repetition of short phrases and single chords, which maintains the spirit
in a state of ineffable yearning'.'37 Likewise he stated that in 'the most varied contrapuntal treatments' of themes in Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 70 'the enraptured
soul perceives an unknown language and understands all the most mysterious
presentiments that hold it in thrall'.138
Moreover, in accordance with Hoffmann's view of all the constituent elements
of music as sources of unity, he attributed to the infinite permutations of a motive
a metaphysical meaning. In so doing he endorsed the view expressed by Burke,
Kant, and, in relation to music, by C. F. Michaelis of complexity as sublime. In his
article on 'The Beautiful and the Sublime in Music' (1805), Michaelis suggested
that the sublime can be evoked in music in two ways, which correspond approximately to Kant's conception of the 'mathematically' and 'dynamically' sublime:
through 'an imitation of the external impact of sublime nature [...], the idea being
to affect us the same way as nature does', and through 'the portrayal [...] of our
own nature, as we are moved, stirred, roused to emotional change'.'39 He termed
Sym'3 JohannAbrahamPeterSCHULZ,Symphony,trans.in ElaineSisman,Mozart:The'Jupiter'
phony(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1993),9-10. Sismansuggests that 'the Burkeansublime echoes convincinglyin [Mozart's]operas;and thatthe Kantian>>mathematical<<
sublimeis particuIbid.,20. See also BathiaCHURGIN,The Symphonyas Describedby J.
larlyrelevantto the >Jupiter<<'.
A. P. Schulz:A Commentaryand Translation,CurrentMusicology29 (1980),7-16.
MusicalWritings,104.
'35Charlton(ed.), Hoffmann's
MusicalWritings,104.
'3 Hoffmiann's
137Ibid.,244.
3"Ibid.,303-4.
139ChristianFriedrichMICHAELIS,
The Beautifuland the Sublimein Music, trans.in Musicand
Aestheticsin theEighteenth
andEarly-Nineteenth
Centuries,PeterLe Huray and JamesDay (eds.), (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1981),289-90(289).

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITING
E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3-30

26

these two manifestations of the sublime the 'objectively' and 'pathetically' sublime,'14and stated that:
The feeling of sublimity in music is aroused when the imaginationis elevated to the
plane of the limitless, the immeasurable,the unconquerable.This happens when such
emotions are aroused as [...] completely prevent the integrationof one's impressions
into a coherent whole [...]. The objectification,the shaping of a coherent whole, is
hamperedin music [...] by too much diversity,as when innumerableimpressionssucceed one another too rapidly and [...] the themes are developed together in so complex a manner that the imagination cannot easily integrate the diverse ideas into a
coherent whole without strain.'41
It was this view of the sublime, which Michaelis inherited from Kant, as 'the
inadequacy of the imagination' to comprehend nature (and art) 'in those of its
appearances whose intuition carries with it the idea of their infinity', that informed
Hoffmann's interpretation of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.'42 Hoffmann stated
that 'it is particularly the close relationship of the individual themes to each other
which provides the unity that is able to sustain one feeling in the listener's heart',
and suggested that this 'one feeling', to which the organic unity of the work gives
rise, is that of awe and incomprehension in the face of the infinitely diverse permutations of one motive.'43 He interpreted Beethoven's symphony as a manifestation of the 'objectively' sublime because the complexity of the music 'unveils before us the realm of the mighty and the immeasurable', it 'sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain', and it 'awakens that infinite yearning
which is the essence of romanticism'.'"
Hoffmann's conception of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as sublime was premised on his view of the development of the opening four-note motive not merely as
a manifestation of the composer's 'rational awareness', but as an embodiment of
his 'infinite yearning'.2' Hoffmann presented the organic form of the music as the
source of its metaphysical meaning, the infinite permutations of the motive representing an expression of the 'infinite yearning' of the composer, and thus, to an
'14Ibid.,289.

1'1Ibid.,290.

142 KANT, Critique


of Judgment,112, ? 26. This conceptionof the sublime was also suggested by
Goethe who, in his aforementionedarticle 'On GermanArchitecture',describedhow he 'was able to
savour and enjoy, but by no means understandand explain'the 'feelingof immense grandeur'which
StrasbourgMinsterinspiredwithin him. GOETHE,On GermanArchitecture,6.
14Hoffmann'sMusicalWritings,250.
'" Ibid.,238. Hoffmann'sdescriptionof Mozart'sDonGiovanniin a letterto T. G. von Hippel of 4
March1795, can be understood as evocative of the 'pathetically'sublime as Michaelisconceived it.
Hoffmannwrote: 'Theswelling of a gentle melody into a crescendo,into shatteringthunder;the soft,
plaintivesounds; the eruptionof ragingdesperation;the majesticelements;the nobilityof the hero;the
fearof the villain and the shiftingpassions in his soul - all this you find in this unique music. It is allencompassingand shows you the spiritof the composerin all modificationspossible'. SelectedLettersof
E.T.A. Hoffmann,35.
14
Hoffmann'sMusicalWritings,238.

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

27

extent, synthesized 'grammatical'and 'psychological' interpretationas the basis


for his musical hermeneutics. This calls into question Ruth Solie's statement that
'forthe [Englishand Germanidealist] philosophers,the point of calling something
was not to describe the arrangementof its physical attributesbut [...] to
>>organic<<
elevate it to a status transcendentof the physical'.'46For Hoffmann organicism
was simultaneously an analytical premise and an aesthetic ideal because he conceived the physical structureof the music as the source of its metaphysical meaning.
Accordingly, Hoffmann's presentationof the first movement of Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony as a development of the opening four-note motive, and his emphasis on the kinship of musical material contained within the third and fourth
movements to that of the first, enabled him to justify his view of the whole as the
expression of 'one lasting emotion, that of nameless, haunted yearning'.47Thus in
conclusion to his analysis of the first movement, Hoffmannsuggested that 'all the
secondary ideas and episodes [...] serve to reveal more and more facets of the
movement's overall character,which the theme by itself could only hint at' by
virtue of their affinity to the opening motive; and that the musical features of the
opening of the third movement, the theme of which recallsthe four-notemotive of
the first, 'express so strongly the characterof Beethoven'smusic described above,
and arouse once more those disquieting presentimentsof a magical spirit-world
with which the Allegro assailed the listener'sheart'.'" Similarly,in his analysis of
the final movement he stated that, with the entry of the second subject, which
presses 'forward like the subjects of the first Allegro and the minuet', 'the spirit
returns to the mood of foreboding which temporarilyreceded amid the joy and
jubilation',and thatthe 'detachedchordsand rests,which recallthe separatestrokes
in the symphony's Allegro [...] place the listeneronce more in a state of tension'.149
Thus by suggesting that the 'relationshipwhich exists between the subjectsof the
two Allegros and the minuet' is 'a deeper relationship'than that which is demonstrable in purely musical terms, Hoffmann attributedto the unity of the work a
metaphysical meaning.'"
It was by appealing to this metaphysical meaning - to the 'deeper relationship' between movements - that Hoffmann vindicated Beethoven's inclusion of
MusicalWritings,238.
Hoffmann's
"6Ruth SOLIE,The Living Work:Organicismand MusicalAnalysis, 150. This over-simplificais furtherreflectedin Solie's statement'that
tion of the conceptionof organicismof the Friihromantiker
when in subsequentgenerationsliteralnotions of >organicunity< are applied to the analysisor evaluation of particularworks of art,a paradoxicalreversaloccursof the values originallyat the root of the
concept'. Ibid.,150. Although Solie's account of the development of the notion of organicismin the
historyof ideas is a preambleto a discussionof its importancein the analysisof Schenkerand Reti,she
does not once mention Hoffmann'sreview, notwithstandingits significancein the history of music
criticism.
47Hoffmann's
MusicalWritings,250.
48Ibid.,244,246.
Ibid.,248-50.
149
'14

'1-Ibid.,251.

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28

E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3-30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

the second movement in the symphony as an organically unified art work. He


stated that 'the chromatic modulations' of the theme of the Andante 'express the
character of the whole work and make this Andante a part of it', and that:
It is as though the awful phantom that seized our hearts in the Allegro threatensat
every moment to emerge from the storm cloud into which it disappeared,so that the
comfortingfigures around us rapidly flee from its sight.t51
Similarly, in referring to 'the restless yearning inherent in the theme' of 'the
trio' of the third movement, as that which is musically independent from 'the
minuet', and by suggesting that Beethoven's use of the kettledrum at the end of
the movement serves to sustain 'the character that he was striving to give the whole
work', Hoffmann attributed to unrelated musical features an extra-musical kinship in order to justify their inclusion in the work as an organically unified entity.1'52 In so doing, he articulated the view, expressed in his review of 1813 of
Braun's Fourth Symphony and Wilms's Symphony, Op. 23, that:
In Beethoven's symphonies, often the apparently wholly heterogeneous individual
movements seem, on closer consideration,to be produced from one element-allonly
working towards onesingle higher purpose, and blending to express the natureof one
inner idea. These movements are like marvellousflowers that spring like leaves from
the green branches and though diverse in colour, are the fruit of one and the same
seed.'VII
Insofar as Hoffmann conceived Beethoven's works 'as products of a genius'
and as an expression of the composer's 'infinite yearning', he practised 'psychological' interpretation as Schleiermacher conceived it.'M However, as Bent rightly
acknowledges, in his 'Review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony' Hoffmann is primarily concerned with 'the effect of [the >grammar(< of the work] on the listener's
Ibid.,245.
151
152Ibid.,247.
53'In den BeethovenschenSymphonien,deren oft ganz heterogenscheinendeeinzelne Saitzebei
niherer Betrachtungdoch nur aus einem Elementerzeugt sind alles nur auf einenvorgesetzten
Zweck hinarbeitet,und sich zum Ausdruckeinerinnern Anregung des Gemiits verschmilzt. Diese
Saitzesind gleich den wundervollen Bliiten,die aus den griinen Zweigen wie die Blitter entspriel3en,
und die in ihrenbuntenFarbenseltsamabstechenddochein und derselbeKeimgebar'.E.T.A. Hoffmann:
SchriftenzurMusik.Nachlese,FriedrichSchnapp(ed.), (Munich:Winkler-Verlag,1963),153.
MusicalWritings,238. In presentingBeethoven'sworks as the productsof his di'5 Hoffmann's
vine inspiration,Hoffmann contributedto the creationin the first half of the nineteenthcentury of
what Dahlhaus described as the 'myth of Beethoven'. This involved the projectionof the image of
Beethoven'as a Prometheanrevolutionary,as a sorcerer,or as a martyredsaint' onto his music. Carl
Music,J.BradfordRobinson(trans.),(Berkeleyand LosAngeles:UniDAHLHAUS,Nineteenth-Century
versity of CaliforniaPress, 1989),75.

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A. CHANTLER,REVISITINGE.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3--30

29

Thus to suggest, as Bentdoes, that through his juxtapositionof technical


mind'.ss55
of
analysis the music and 'emotive', metaphorical descriptions of its meaning,
'Hoffmannintermitsthe grammaticaland psychological' sides of interpretation,'6
in order 'to understand the discourse as a presentationof thought', is to misrepresent the significance of Hoffmann's creative use of language in the review.'57
Hoffmann's synthesis of musical analysis with metaphorical evocations of the
meaning of the work can be understood as a reflection of his conception of the
metaphysical ontology of a musical composition as the unity of two minds, the
metaphoricalevocations representingHoffmann's creative response to the composer's work as a listener. They reflectthe active interpretativer81ehe assigned to
the reader seeking to understand the semantic ambiguity of his text, and to the
reader as a listener seeking to understand Beethoven's symphony - a r61econtrasted by the re-creativer61lewhich Schleiermacherassigned to practitionersof
his hermeneuticmethodology.
It was in accordance with Kant's conception of the sublime, as that which
and in accordancewith
'must be sought only in the mind of the judging person',158
Hoffmann's ideal of the recipient of a work as a 'passive genius' who, whilst
emphathizing with its spirit as a product of the composer's 'divine inspiration',
actively perpetuates the 'infiniteyearning' expressed within, that Hoffmann conceived the organic unity of a work of genius as a catalyst through which 'every
sensitive listener' can strive to penetrate a higher realm.'59 He did not view
Beethoven'sFifthSymphony as a source from which 'to discover the individuality
of an author','16but ratheras music which serves to 'arouse[...] disquieting presentiments of a magical spirit-world',and which 'setsin motionthe machinery of
awe, of fear, of terror, of pain, and awakensthat infinite yearning which is the
essence of romanticism'(my italics).161
Thus Bent's emphasis upon the methodological kinship between
Schleiermacher's'general hermeneutics'and Hoffmann's 'musical hermeneutics'
obscures the polarity between Schleiermacher'sorganic view of texts, as self-contained entities in which a definite meaning is inscribed,and Hoffmann'sview that
the meaning of both music and literatureis always 'in the state of becoming'.162
Moreover,it disregards the metaphysicaldimension so crucialto Hoffmann's aesthetic thought, and alien to Schleiermacher'shermeneuticmethodology. By contrast, considering Hoffmann's review in relation to the writings of the Sturmund
Drangmovement and to the aesthetics of the sublime, serves to elucidate the importance of his aesthetic concept of organicismas a means of expressing his view
of romanticmusic as a metaphysicalmedium.
155 BENT, Plato-Beethoven, 117.
Ibid., 117-8.
'156

'7 SCHLEIERMACHER,
Hermeneutics:
TheHandwritten
Manuscripts,161.
of Judgment,113,? 26.
'5 KANT,Critique
MusicalWritings,250.
'5 Hoffmann's
'60SCHLEIERMACHER,
Hermeneutics:
TheHandwritten
Manuscripts,162.
161
MusicalWritings,246,238.
Hoffmann's
162
32.
SCHLEGEL,
Philosophical
Fragments,

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30

E.T.A.HOFFMANN,IRASM33 (2002) 1, 3-30


A. CHANTLER,REVISITING

SaZetak
PONOVNO RAZMATRANJE GLAZBENE HERMENEUTIKE
E. T. A. HOFFMANNA

U ovom se dlanku ispituje odnos izmedu Schleiermacherove hermeneutike i


Hoffmannove>glazbene hermeneutike< unutarkontekstarazvitkapovijestiidejau kasnom
18. i ranom 19. stoljeeu.Tako se SchleiermacherovahermeneutiCkametodologijarazmatra
u odnosu na romantiCku
knjiZevnuteorijumislilacakao Stoje FriedrichSchlegelte se istraZuje
va2nost sredignjihestetiCkihidejaromantizmau Hoffmannovojglazbenojmisli. Usporedba
Schleiermacherovehermeneutikes Hoffmannovom glazbenom hermeneutikom,kakva je
prakticiranau njegovu >Prikazu Beethovenove Pete simfonije< (1810),pokazuje da svaka
od njih potjete iz razlitite tradicijete da se to odra2ava u polarnosti izmedu zamisli o
organskomjedinstvuu sr2i hermeneutiCkemisli svakoga od njih.Dok je Schleiermacherova
hermeneutikabila zamigljenakao proturazlikaspecijaliziranojhermeneuticiprakticiranoju
18. stoljedu,Hoffmannovaglazbenahermeneutikapotjete iz estetiCketradicijekojusu uveli
mislioci pokreta >Sturm und Drang<.

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