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David Constantine

Print publication date: 1988

Print ISBN-13: 9780198157885

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198157885.001.0001

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Frankfurt, 1796–1798

Frankfurt, 1796–1798

(p.56) 4 Frankfurt, 1796–1798

David Constantine

Oxford University Press

The real Frankfurt, the world of commercial success, went into Friedrich Hölderlin's writings as the capital of philistinism, joylessness, and barbaric oppression, and if he later called it ‘the navel of the earth’ that was partly on account of its geographical position in Germany but chiefly because Susette Gontard lived and died there. Hölderlin's most characteristic predisposition — to think of the empirical world as hostile to the spirit, to think of the spirit as being almost everywhere beleaguered and oppressed — was massively confirmed in Frankfurt. He had met with oppression and philistinism before, of course, enough to convince him that the things of the spirit would always have to be fought for against nearly overwhelming odds; but still the sheer brutal self-confidence of Frankfurt, its utter negation of the spirit, must have come as a shock. In Frankfurt, he seemed to have met with barbarism at its most compelling.

Keywords:   Frankfurt, Friedrich Hölderlin, philistinism, empirical world, spirit, oppression, barbarism

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