John T. Hamilton (born March 1, 1963, Bronx, NY) is a literary scholar, musician, and William R. Kenan Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He previously held positions at the University of California-Santa Cruz (in Classics) and New York University (Comparative Literature and German). He has also taught as a visiting professor at the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition at Bristol University. Numerous academic fellowships include the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the ETH-Zürich, and the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin.
Hamilton received his doctorate in Comparative Literature at New York University in 1999 under the directorship of Richard Sieburth. Hamilton's primary teaching and research topics include 18th- and 19th-century Literature, Classical Philology and Reception History, Music and Literature, Literary Theory and Political Metaphorology.
In Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition (2004), Hamilton offers a broad investigation of Pindar, the archaic Greek lyric poet, and his long reception history in European literature and scholarship, addressing a variety of pressing issues, including the recovery and appropriation of classical texts, problems of translation, representations of lyric authenticity, and the possibility or impossibility of a continuous literary tradition. The poetics of obscurity that comes to be articulated across the centuries suggests that taking Pindar to be an incomprehensible poet may not simply be the result of an insufficient or false reading, but rather may serve as a wholly adequate judgment.
Hamilton's subsequent book, Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language (2008) grapples with Romantic figurations of the mad musician, which challenge the limits of representation and thereby instigate a profound crisis in language. Special attention is given to 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.
Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care (2013) examines the discursive versatility and semantic vagueness of the term security both in current and historical usage. Adopting a philological approach, Hamilton explores the fundamental ambiguity of this word, which denotes the removal of "concern" or "care" and therefore implies a condition that is either carefree or careless. Spanning texts from ancient Greek poetry to Roman Stoicism, from Augustine and Luther to Machiavelli and Hobbes, from Kant and Nietzsche to Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, the study analyzes formulations of security that involve both safety and negligence, confidence and complacency, certitude and ignorance.
From 1985 to 1996 Hamilton was the guitarist and principal songwriter, together with Donna Croughn, for the band Tiny Lights, based in Hoboken, New Jersey.Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), ISBN 978-0674012578. According to WorldCat, the book is held in 257 libraries Translated into Chinese, by Lin Lou, as 幽暗的诱惑 : 品达、晦涩与古典传统 / You an de you huo : Pindar, hui se yu gu dian chuan tong ISBN 9787508057033
Review, by Helmut Muller-Sievers Modern philology. 103, no. 2, (2005): 215
Review, by Leofranc Holford-Strevens The London review of books. 27, no. 4, (2005): 33
Review, by Armand D'Angour, TLS, the Times literary supplement. no. 5313, (2005): 28
Review, by W Waters, Modern Language Quarterly 67, no. 2, (2006): 265-270
Review, by Penelope Wilson, Translation and Literature, v14 n1 (Spring, 2005): 90-94
Review, by Felix Budelmann, The Classical Review, v55 n2 (Oct., 2005): 406-407
Review, by Adolf Köhnken, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, v11 n4 (Spring, 2005): 602-606
Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), ISBN 978-0231142205 According to WorldCat, the book is held in 449 libraries. Translated into German as Musik, Wahnsinn und das Ausserkraftsetzen der Sprache (2011) ISBN 9783835308282
Review, by John Neubauer Comparative Literature Studies, 47, no. 2 (2010): 243-246
Review, by H Lindenberger Modern Language Quarterly, v71 n2 (20100504): 213-215
Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013) ISBN 9780691157528
Review, by Hall Bjornstad, "L'Esprit créateur," v54 n3 (2014): 118
Review, by Ellwood Wiggins, "Modern Language Quarterly," v76 n3 (2015), 393-96
“Poetica obscura: Reexamining Hamann’s Contribution to the Pindaric Tradition,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 34:1 (2000), 93-115.
“Temple du Temps: Valéry et le Verbe opaque” in Poétiques de l’objet: L’Objet dans la poésie française du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle, François Rouget, ed. Paris : Champion, 2001, 155-64.
“Thunder from a Clear Sky: On Lessing’s Redemption of Horace” Modern Language Quarterly 62:3 (2001), 203-218.
“Modernity, Translation, and Poetic Prose in Lessing’s Briefe, die neueste Literatur betreffend,” Lessing Jahrbuch 36 (2004/2005), 79-96.
“Canis canens, oder Kafkas Respekt vor der Musikwissenschaft,” Kafkas Institutionen, Arne Höcker and Oliver Simons, ed., Bielefeld: Transcript, 2007, 145–156.
“Philology and Music in the Work of Pascal Quignard,” Studies in Twentieth- and Twenty-first-Century Literature 33 (2009), 43–67.
“Music on Location: Rhythm, Resonance, and Romanticism in Eichendorff’s Marmorbild,” Modern Language Quarterly 70 (2009): 195–221.
“Ovids Echographie” in Narziss und Eros. Bild oder Text?, Eckart Goebel and Elisabeth Bronfen, ed., Göttingen: Wallstein, 2009, 18–40.
“O mi fili, o mi discipule! Der Vater als Philosophiemeister im alten Rom,” Meister und Schüler in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Von Religionen der Antike bis zur modernen Esoterik, A.-B. Renger, ed., Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2012, 69–80.
“Reception, Gratitude and Obligation: Lessing and the Classical Tradition,” Studies in Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (2013), 81–96.
“Der pythogoreische Kult und die akousmatische Mitteilung von Wissen,” Performanz von Wissen: Strategien der Wissensvermittlung in der Vormoderne, T. Fuhrer and A.-B. Renger, ed., Heidelberg: Winter, 2013, 49–54.
“Gambara de Balzac, ou Le Chef-d’œuvre ‘inentendu’: pour une esthétique noétique,” in Théories de la littérature: nouveaux éléments de vocabulaire, Emmanuel Bouju, ed. (Rennes, 2015).
“Repetitio Sententiarum, Repetitio Verborum: Kant, Hamann, and the Implications of Citation,” German Quarterly 87:3 (2014), 297–312.
“Omnia mea mecum porto: Exile, Culture, and the Precarity of Life,” Ethos Quarterly 108 (2014), 95–107.
“Ellipses of World Literature,” Poetica 46 (2014), 1–16.
"Cléopâtre pour Cléopâtre: Das innere Absolute und die Wiederbelebung der Zivilisation in Gautiers Une nuit de Cléopâtre" in Translatio Babylonis: Unsere orientalische Moderne, Barbara Vinken, ed. Paderborn: Fink, 2014.
“Procuratores: On the Limits of Caring for Another,” Telos 170 (2015), 1–16.
“Torture as an Instrument of Music,” in Liminal Auralities: Sounds, Technics, and Space, Sander van Maas, ed. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015, 143–52.
“‘Cette douceur, pour ainsi dire wagnérienne’: Musical Resonance in Proust’s Recherche” in Proust and the Arts, Christie McDonald and François Proulx, ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 90–100.
“Rahmen, Küsten, und Nachhaltigkeiten in Theodor Storms Der Schimmelreiter,” Weimarer Beiträge (2015), 165-80.
“Voluptas Carnis: Allegory and Non-Knowledge in Pieter Aertsen’s Paintings,” in Ignorance, Nescience, Nonknowledge, Cornel Zwierlein, ed., Leiden: Brill, 2016, 179–96.