Book Recommendation: “Holderlin and the Question of the Father”

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Jean Laplanche’s text, “Holderlin and the Question of the Father” is really quite good. In it, I am finding many of my research questions addressed: artistic practice and social revolution, psychosis and poetic/mythical creation, the idea of proximity to otherness and its relation to ethics, and late Lacanian concepts of the symptom. This text is helping me realize the direction I want my dissertation to take. At this point I know generally that it will include the intersection of ethics and poetry and political revolution.

Holderlin and the Question of the Father

It’s illuminating to read this text next to Balso’s work on Holderlin and the affirmation, particularly the central idea of Holerlin, which is the concept of ‘proximity’. For Balso, proximity refers to the way in which Holderlin positions temporality in relation to the Greeks, to the earthly pantheon of Gods, and to the future of mankind following the French revolution. The text is not a psycho-biography, as Laplanche is drawing from Holderlin’s oeuvre insights to the field of psychoanalysis more generally.

For Holderlin, proximity refers to the distance that Holderlin put up against the Law, which was embodied in his philosophical and spiritual master, Schiller. Once Holderlin breaks into a psychotic break following his Jena depression, Laplanche shows, from a close reading of Lacan’s work on psychosis the way in which schizophrenia begins to color all of his writing. This schizophrenic break is largely understood as the penetrating breakthrough that led to Holderlin’s Hyperion and other poetic forms of genius and mastery. It was this merging with the master through the process that Lacan referred to as Name of the Father. So what we find is that as Holderlin matures as a poet prior to the French revolution, we see that it was this intense interpersonal relation that revolutionized his social awareness and led to the notion of proximity.

My graduate work on Lacan dealt with the idea of proximity and ethics, and in Laplanche’s text, we find an entirely unique conception of proximity that supplements Lacan’s views in the Ethics of Psychoanalysis.

One observation about the text, (I’m almost finished with it) is that Schiller’s position of Father over Holderlin mirrors Lacan’s position of Father over Laplanche; however, they both (Holderlin and Laplanche) overcame their masters — at the cost of slipping into a kind of schizophrenia (for Holderlin) that liberated his poetics, and for Laplanche, he has managed to work through the transference of his master Lacan, and produce new insights in the field of psychoanalysis.

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