18. November 2022

Sean Colonna Guest Lecture

Sean Colonna (Columbia University) will give a talk entitled "On Trunksucht and Sehnsucht: Addiction, Longing, and Early Romantic Subjectivity "



While the concept of Sehnsucht (“longing”) has long been recognized as a pillar of early German Romantic aesthetics, its relationship to its etymological cousin Trunksucht (“alcohol addiction”) has not yet received sustained investigation. Both concepts emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century in German-speaking territories: Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder’s Phantasien über die Kunst für Freunde der Kunst (“Fantasies on the Subject of Art for Friends of Art,” 1799) gives Sehnsucht one of its earliest and most paradigmatic treatments, while Constantine von Brühl-Cramer’s treatise Abhandlungüber die Trunksucht und eine rationelle Heilmethode derselben (“Treatise on alcohol addiction and a rational method for healing the same,” 1819) coined the term Trunksucht two decades later. Using the historical and etymological proximity of these two terms as a point of entry, this talk investigates what these concepts reveal about the relationship between theories of intoxication, musical experience, and subjectivity in the early Romantic period.

I situate this talk within my broader research project exploring the interdependencies between the histories of Western art music aesthetics and drug consumption. Borrowing a term from Fabián Ludueña Romandini, this research is premised on my theorization of both music and drugs as “anthropotechnologies” (antropotecnias), i.e. as tools for the theorization of the phenomenology of human selfhood in contradistinction to various forms of sub/non-human otherness. I indicate some of the ways in which drugs and music have catalyzed richly-textured discussions regarding the building blocks of subjectivity, including the somatic, affective, and cognitive dimensions of such experiences as pleasure, desire, and freedom. After discussing these and other methodological concerns, I turn to my comparative reading of Wackenroder and Brühl-Cramer, which explores the extent to which Trunksucht and Sehnsucht emerge from Kantian understandings of subjectivity. I argue that both concepts function as inversions of one another, and that, paradoxically, these terms do not simply theorize a desire for particular experiences but also an aversion to something prior to those experiences, namely the feeling of being an autonomous “self” in the Kantian sense of the term.