Sehnsucht, Music, and the Sublime

Kiene Brillenburg Wurth

in Musically Sublime

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230631
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235452 | DOI:
Sehnsucht, Music, and the             Sublime

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This chapter argues that Sehnsucht, instrumental music, and the sublime can be seen as intersecting concepts that partake of a poetics and an aesthetics of indeterminacy in later 18th-century German criticism. Analyzing these intersections between instrumental music and Sehnsucht in the light of the infinite, the chapter shows how they rehearse and transform the standard, 18th-century German conception of the sublime. It traces this standard conception to the discourse of elevation typifying Immanuel Kant's analytic of the mathematical sublime in the Critique of Judgment. To show how this standard conception can be countered from within the romantic tradition, it uses E. T. A. Hoffmann's criticism of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as a starting point. Both are well-worn texts in the literature of the sublime and music, but in their juxtaposition they also reinvent each other. Thus, presenting a famous “case” of musical Sehnsucht, Hoffmann's account of Beethoven's Fifth can be at once posited as an alternative to the logic of transgression that marks the Kantian sublime.

Keywords: Sehnsucht; instrumental music; sublime; Kant; E. T. A. Hoffman; Beethoven; Fifth Symphony; Critique of Judgment

Chapter.  11211 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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