John T. Hamilton investigates how literary, philosophical, and psychological treatments of music and madness challenge the limits of representation, thereby creating a crisis of language. He particularly focuses on the decidedly autobiographical impulse of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, where musical experience and mental disturbance disrupt the expression of referential thought, illuminating the irreducible aspects of the self before language can work them back into a discursive system. The study begins in the 1750s with Diderot's "Neveu de Rameau," and situates that text in relation to Rousseau's reflections on the voice and the burgeoning discipline of musical aesthetics. Hamilton then traces the linkage of music and madness that courses through the work of Herder, Hegel, Wackenroder, and Kleist before turning his attention to E. T. A. Hoffmann, whose writings of the first decades of the nineteenth century accumulate and qualify preceding traditions. Throughout his analysis, Hamilton considers the particular representations that link music and madness, exploring underlying motives, preconceptions, and ideological premises that facilitate the association of these two experiences.
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