Heinrich von Kleist's Poetics of Passivity

Heinrich von Kleist's Poetics of Passivity

by Steven R. Huff


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Heinrich von Kleist's Poetics of Passivity by Steven R. Huff

Controversial during his lifetime as well as among today's scholars and critics, the German dramatist and writer of novellas Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) remains an enigma. Was he a Romantic or a Classic? A conservative or a liberal? What is his status in the literary canon? Because of their enigmatic qualities, Kleist's writings have attracted the attention of critics and theorists from well beyond the narrow confines of German literary studies: comparatists, historians, philosophers, legal scholars, and even musicologists and dance historians. And outside academia his writings are as popular as ever.
This book scrutinizes for the first time a key element in Kleist's thought and poetic process: his obsession with the problem of passivity. Scholars have long been attracted to the dynamic, larger-than-life characters in Kleist's fiction and drama, overlooking the fact that Kleist's works often turn on moments of stasis, as these same protagonists are suddenly and sometimes brutally rendered passive. Through a careful, historically grounded, and original investigation incorporating extensive primary research in late-Enlightenment natural philosophy and eighteenth-century medical practices, the study sheds light on these nodal points in Kleist's work, contending that these structures of passivity are so pervasive and so systematic in his work that they can justifiably and profitably be viewed as constituting a kind of poetics.

Steven R. Huff is Associate Professor in the Department of German at Oberlin College.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571134226
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
Publication date: 11/01/2009
Series: Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture Series
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Poetica Asina — An Ass Brays, a Poet Is Born

The Poetics of Somniloquence: The Cultural-Historical Context

Kleistian Teichoscopy: Cannibalism Made Palatable — or Not

Prince Friedrich Von Homburg: Soldier-Dreamer

Passivity in the Novellas: "And it came to pass ..."



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