Corporeality, Subjectivity, and Language in Johann Georg Hamann
1. Hamann’s Infinite Inter-Connectedness, or, Where To Begin? 11
The Secret Life of Language In his essay, “Über die Unverständlichkeit,” Friedrich Schlegel lays thegroundwork for a rethinking of language predicated upon the discon- nect between language and the intentions of its user: “ich wollte zeigen, dass die Worte sich selbst oft besser verstehen, als diejenigen, von denen sie gebraucht werden.”10 Unsurprisingly, the scholar Karl Heinz Bohrer identifies the idea that language possesses a self-understanding exceed- ing its communicative and intended use as the fundamental idea under- pinning a turn toward rhetorical modes of discourse in late-eighteenth-century German thought.11 In contrast to the “ernsten Männer,”12 Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, who remain dedicated to the ideal of language expressing, or at least approximating, a remainderless intention, Bohrer argues that thinkers such as Jean Paul, Karl Solger, and Schlegel usher in an understanding of language focusing on its unin- tended effects. Among his contemporaries, perhaps no other thinker was more at home traversing the zones of language’s unintended effects than Chapter 1 Hamann’s Infinite Inter- Connectedness, or, Where To Begin? Goesser Assaiante_T4.qxd 9/1/2011 3:55 PM Page 11 Hamann. Through their unsystematic structure and vehement polemics against abstract rationality, his texts quickly garnered a reputation for “darkness” and inaccessibility. It is perhaps a small comfort to the mod- ern reader that one of Hamann’s most astute contemporaries, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, found his own struggle with the Magus of the North to be a source of mirth for their mutual friend, Johann Gottfried Herder: So machte er...
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