Postmodern Hölderlin

How to Cite

Woodward, A. (2022). Postmodern Hölderlin. Aesthetica Preprint, (118). Retrieved from


Jean-François Lyotard, the principal philosopher of the postmodern, referred to Hölderlin at some key points in the elaboration of this idea. These references centre on Hölderlin’s ‘Notes on the Oedipus’. While brief, they index a number of key points which it is my aim in this paper to elaborate. Lyotard’s references to Hölderlin index a crisis – that of the postmodern – and aid him in articulating this crisis, in relation to the ancient and the modern, through two separate but connected modalities: history understood as narrative, and aesthetics. Beyond Lyotard’s own elaborations of Hölderlin, I will argue that Lyotard’s distinction between modern and postmodern aesthetics allows us to see, not only the influence of Hölderlin on the postmodern, but dimensions of the postmodern aesthetic already at play in his poetry. This is evident through the unconventional aspects of his use of language, the joy in invention which Lyotard suggests places an accent on the postmodern, in contrast to the nostalgia of the modern. In these ways, I will suggest that Hölderlin can be read as a touchstone not only of the modern but of the postmodern, one of the integral notions of 20th century aesthetics.