„Gott in Anmuth”. A Reading of Hölderlin’s Homburger Folioheft from an Aesthetic Point of View

FWF Stand alone project

Project no.: P 36887

Start: 02. Oktober 2023

End: 01. Oktober 2024

Funding amount: 88.652 €


The oeuvre of German poet and philosopher Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843) has been an important point of reference in philosophical and cultural debates of the 20th and 21st century, referenced in various contexts and at times controversially. In these discussions, the question of how Hölderlin deals with the concept of God plays an important role – even in secular contexts and crossing disciplinary boundaries (theology, philosophy, literary studies…). Indeed, the question of God (Gottesfrage) is a central motif in Hölderlin’s entire poetic and philosophical oeuvre.

The research project, situated at the intersection of religion and aesthetics, pursues this question on the basis of Hölderlin’s “Homburger Folioheft”, a collection of fragmentary texts written between 1801 and 1806 that are much debated in current research. The volume contains numerous drafts, fragments, notations and blank pages. Its textual form comprises clean copies, overlapping stages and interleaved text segments; the Folioheft shows sometimes a tendency to dissolve into an unrecognizable textual form. The project starts with the observation that the (concept of) ‘God’ can be found on almost every page of the volume. ‘God’ or the divine appears remarkably often whenever Hölderlin makes significant changes to the text – changes that, for Johann Kreuzer, indicate a process of ‘Sprachfindung’. The project elaborates on the thesis that this process of searching a language (Sprachfindung) is closely connected to dealing with the notion of God.

The project involves a close reading of the text, paying particular attention to transitions, ruptures and gaps, as well as to the process of re-elaboration and the search for new linguistic expressions. Rather than identifying the ultimate version amid various stages and thereby establishing a final text, the project treats the text as it stands as an open work of art (Umberto Eco). Thus understood, the ‘unfinished’ Homburger Folioheft calls for the readers’ active cooperation. Such readings mean oscillating between different stages and thereby allowing new constellations of textual elements to evolve that initially seem unconnected. This interactive and open reception process characterises what we call an aesthetic approach to the volume.

The fact that the notion of God is at the core of the vast changes that Hölderlin made over the years in the Homburger Folioheft and that the text, understood as an open work of art, depends on the readers’ cooperation can be a provocative stimulus for theology. Theology is challenged to render the name of God in new ways, i.e., as the open that evades direct linguistic representation and undermines any attempt to grasp its meaning directly from what the text expresses. This project regards the reader of the HF as part of a process of concealing and revealing the name of God; interestingly this corresponds to the unfolding nature of the name of God as it is portrayed in the biblical narratives.

Foto Credits: Diachrone Darstellung des Homburger Foliohefts: https://homburgfolio.wlb-stuttgart.de/; https://homburgfolio.wlb-stuttgart.de/handschrift/307-04; edited by Marco Fiorletta.




  • A contribution as introduction to the theme of the research project "Gott in Anmuth" about Homburger Folioheft of the poet Friedrich Hölderlin was published on the 13rd December in RaT-Blog and can be read here.
  • An article of Jakob Deibl: "The divine and the open text: Five steps for reading Hölderlin’s Homburger Folioheft" was published in: German Quarterly 97, (1/2024), pp. 1–18. Click here to read it.
  • An article by Jakob Deibl: "Speaking of God in the Realm of Aesthetics: Religion in Hölderlin" has been published in the journal Religions. Click here to read it.

Next reading group meetings (in German):

  • 12th February, 12.30-17, Seminaraum 5, Schenkenstraße;
  • 15th March, 15-18, Seminaraum 5, Schenkenstraße.