Jean Paul’s Acoustic Romanticism and Aeolian Soundscapes in Vorschule der Ästhetik and Titan

Meryem Deniz


Drawing on Sound Studies, this article explores Jean Paul’s acoustic Romanticism, emphasizing the Aeolian harp and tracing the history of its sound in his texts. In Vorschule der Ästhetik (1804), Jean Paul uses the harp’s acoustic qualities to differentiate his poetics from that of others. A single elastic string’s ability to play multiple tones simultaneously in the wind transforms his perception of the capacity of imagination from one of unison (Einklang) to harmony (Zusammenklang). By interpreting timbre as a medium-specific and emotional quality of sound, this article explores ecopoetic affordances of Aeolian tone, illustrating that the specific feeling evoked within the reader by Romantic prose sets it apart from Goethe’s plastic style. Testing Jean Paul’s conception of harmony against the backdrop of acoustic environments in the novel Titan (1800–1803), I show how Aeolian harp assumes material agency in the plot, evoking ecological and cosmic awareness in the characters. (MD)

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