Poetic Rhythm around 1800

This dissertation project started from the discussion on meter and rhythm that took place in the 18th century. With Klopstock’s Messias (1751–1773), a work composed in hexameters, the use of ancient meter in modern art becomes increasingly prominent. What starts out as a mere technical problem, the (im)possibility of a ‘German hexameter’ (Klopstock), soon stands at the center of far-reaching questions that determine the 18th century discourse on aesthetics. The problem of meter separates different definitions of art forms (concerning, for example, the relation between poetry and music) as well as the intraliterary definitions of genre (between poetry and prose). Then, classicist poetry is also faced with the question of the historicity of meter and rhythm (Rousseau, G. Hermann, J.H. Voss). This is crossed by an anthropological understanding of rhythm in which rhythmical forms are derived from the movement of the human body (A. W. Schlegel, Sulzer, K. Ph. Moritz). Finally, around 1800, the versification also leads to changing conceptions of time and its various forms (Hölderlin, Schelling).

This dissertation project explored this complex discourse by looking at the poetic meter and analyzing poetic and poetological texts by contemporary authors (Klopstock, Goethe, Hölderlin, Novalis). Thus, next to the historical focus on 1800 that receives little attention in the research on rhythm, the project focused specifically on poetry. A reading that brought together such poetological texts with poetic ones was meant to avoid the problematic vagueness of the notion of rhythm and instead highlight the figuration of the question of rhythm in its diversity. In its formulations, topics included the organicity of form (Klopstock), the ethical validity of the meter (Hölderlin), or the ‘Takt’ as a social form (Goethe). Based on the reading of versified texts, the work discussed various conceptions of meter as well as the methodological question: how can and should we read versified texts—or, in a broader sense: rhythmical forms?

2016–2017 MacMillan International Dissertation Research Fellowship, 2017–2018 Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences University Dissertation Fellowship 2016–2018
Head researcher(s): Elisa Ronzheimer


Elisa Ronzheimer

Poetologien des Rhythmus um 1800
Metrum und Versform bei Klopstock, Hölderlin, Novalis, Tieck und Goethe

Studien zur deutschen Literatur vol. 224
de Gruyter, Berlin 2020, 214 pages
ISBN 978-3-11-069206-8 (Print); 978-3-11-069311-9 (E-Book)

Elisa Ronzheimer

  • “Folgeerscheinungen der rhythmischen décadence.” Rhythmus und Stil in Nietzsches “Ecce homo,” in: Boris Roman Gibhardt (ed.): Denkfigur Rhythmus. Probleme und Potenziale des Rhythmusbegriffs in den Künsten. Hannover: Wehrhahn Verlag 2020, 91–103 (with Eva Geulen)


27 Sep 2018 · 4.20 pm

Eva Geulen & Elisa Ronzheimer: Rhythmus und Stil in Nietzsches »Ecce Homo«

Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung (ZiF) der Universität Bielefeld, Methoden 1, 33615 Bielefeld

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16 Dec 2017 · 9.45 am

Elisa Ronzheimer: Exzentrisches Erleben. Hölderin-Lektüren (Dilthey, Benjamin, Adorno)

Haus zur Lieben Hand, Löwenstraße 16, 79098 Freiburg, Seminarraum

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Media Response

14 Dec 2022
Poetologien des Rhythmus um 1800. Metrum und Versform bei Klopstock, Hölderlin, Novalis, Tieck und Goethe

Review by Hannah V. Eldridge, in: Monatshefte 114.4 (2022), 683–685