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Body Language

Corporeality, Subjectivity, and Language in Johann Georg Hamann


Julia Goesser Assaiante

Body Language: Corporeality, Subjectivity, and Language in Johann Georg Hamann addresses the centrality of sensual perception to the constitution of subjectivity and the resulting relationship between subjectivity and language in the work of Johann Georg Hamann. In positing the body as the entity that conditions a subject’s encounter with the world, Hamann, it is argued, prefigures a notion of finite subjectivity that not only runs counter to the Enlightenment tradition but also reemerges in nineteenth- (Kierkegaard and Nietzsche) and twentieth-century (Benjamin) discourses on the tension between subjectivity and the abstraction of language. The paradox at the heart of this investigation is Hamann’s radical circumscription of reason as expressed through language, which nevertheless attempts to recuperate the concept of universal meaning through faith. Language is wrested away from abstraction and, therefore, any universality, and becomes the expression of the finite, corporeal subjectivity, a state of limitation that is at once granted and resolved by a divine creator.


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Acknowledgments ix


Iwould like to thank the following mentors, friends, and family, with-out whose help this project could not have been completed: Eckart Goebel, John Hamilton, Paul North, and Friedrich Ulfers for their advice on improving the dissertation; Paul Fleming, without whose guidance the dissertation, and as a consequence this work, would never have been written; Eva Geulen and Barbara Hahn, whose work inspired me; Gabika Bockaj, Cornelia Uhlenhaut, Thomas Stachel and Amir Irani Tehrani for their countless conversations and friendship; Dr. Sigrid Salehi for her generous gifts of collected works, being my Vorbild, and unflagging enthusiasm for this and all my enterprises; Karin and Lutz Goesser for their unwavering support; and Paul and Emma Assaiante, who make it all worthwhile. Acknowledgments Goesser Assaiante_T4.qxd 9/1/2011 3:55 PM Page xi Goesser Assaiante_T4.qxd 9/1/2011 3:55 PM Page xii

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