From Song to the Smiles of Stone: Aesthetic and Ethical Encounters in Hofmannsthal’s Augenblicke in Griechenland

Marlo Alexandra Burks


Hofmannsthal’s Augenblicke in Griechenland is rarely treated in its entirety to a close reading; usually specific aspects of the text are used to support a broaderinterpretation of Hofmannsthal’s work, or of fin-de-siècle views on the Augenblick. With this article, I take the theme of encounters to demonstrate the complexity of the text on a primarily aesthetic level: its internal echoes, its modification of themes, its arc. The text culminates in an encounter with otherness made manifest in the faces of archaic Greek statues. Exploring encounters with the gaze of the other, we can see the text’s relevance to theorizing the encounter generally, and the aesthetic encounter in particular. This leads me to posit a ‘dialogical aesthetics’ at work in Hofmannsthal’s text, bringing him into conversation with thinkers like Martin Buber, while offering a counterargument to philosophical skepticism towards art, as argued for perhaps most vehemently by Levinas.

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