Heinrich von Kleist und sein Werk Das Erdbeben in Chili (German Edition)
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Volume 81 , Issue 2.
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Kleist and Haiti: The Haitian Revolution in Heinrich Von Kleist’s Die Verlobung in St. Domingo
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Volume 81 , Issue 2 Spring Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Almost immediately, he was plunged into the conflict between the conservative powers of Europe and the revolutionary French nation, which in November proclaimed its readiness to liberate its European neighbors.
Having seen action in the Palatinate and witnessed the bombardment of insurgents in the ancient city of Mainz, Kleist rapidly began to grow tired of combat, which by February he termed an immoral waste of time SWB, Kleist is implicitly critical of the wealthy and powerful, whom he suggests may not gain happiness from their status. He also recognizes that a day laborer may achieve contentment and, implicitly, a state of virtue despite his lowly station. Writing to his former teacher Martini, he describes how, in drilling his subordinates, he was unable to reconcile his professional duties with the moral duties incumbent upon a human being, and regularly felt guilty about betraying either his personal morality or the prescribed disciplinary procedures.
Kleist attached extreme importance to his moral and intellectual autonomy and felt keenly that the soldiers were treated as mere slaves SWB, This question was to play an important role throughout both his personal life and his writings. Kleist criticizes the authoritarian corporative state primarily from an individual, humanitarian standpoint, but his remarks focus on points identified by the military reformers as important operational weaknesses in the Prussian army, particularly the suppression of individual initiative and the indifference to human dignity. Even before he had obtained official permission to leave the army, Kleist enrolled at university in Frankfurt an der Oder, though not before he was reminded of the narrow range of options open to him as an aristocrat and was advised to choose either law or cameralism, as subjects that would help him support himself.
Kleist confided to Martini that he was studying for the sake of his moral and intellectual betterment, not to improve his professional prospects, and thus he studied mathematics, science, philosophy, and natural law. He broke off his studies in August after just three semesters, partly because his engagement to Wilhelmine, the daughter of Major-General von Zenge of the Frankfurt regiment, depended upon his entry into an established profession.
In the hope of testing his aptitude for a civil service career, Kleist moved to Berlin and obtained permission from the minister Carl August von Struensee to sit in on the meetings of the Technische Deputation, a committee charged with assessing the potential usefulness of the latest tech4 nological innovations. In the letter, he also criticizes the enforced industrialization of Prussia under mercantilist principles SWB, This shows how the latest philosophy might lead some to question the validity of the absolutist state.
Das Erdbeben in Chili Von Heinrich Von Kleist. Ein berblick
The problem of human selfdetermination was to preoccupy Kleist throughout his literary work, just as it shaped his early life. As we will see, Kleist returns repeatedly in his writing to this question of how — and indeed whether — the state can help achieve human emancipation. Kleist continued to reach for certainties, even though his decisions were increasingly taking him away from a secure and conventional path through life. In February , he described to his older half-sister Ulrike how, after the collapse of his old life-plan, he locked himself in his room for a week, intent on designing a new strategy, only to emerge from it unresolved SWB, He felt isolated and misunderstood in a society where role-playing was the norm, and unable to communicate his feelings fully to those around him.
Although he remained passionately engaged in his self-education, he was disappointed at the one-sidedness of the scholars he met in the Prussian capital and was reluctant to commit himself to academia on account of the specialization it would involve SWB, — Shortly afterwards, Kleist described his shattering encounter with the latest work of the Kantian school, which he took to imply that human faculties are incapable of reliably discerning truth SWB, The anonymity of life in the big city dismayed him, and the dirt and the criminality repulsed him.
However, his observations on Parisian life concentrated, not altogether originally, on its alleged superficiality. The abolition of feudalism in France had not achieved a more humane society, but one in which human life was recklessly placed at risk, and where the state offered the individual not education, but entertainment. In Paris, Kleist learned that the supreme intellectual and moral insights of Rousseau may not have improved the world, but his skepticism about intellectual endeavor was tempered by his belief that the craving for knowledge is a basic human need SWB, — There is a striking similarity between his view of the French government as primarily interested in material gain SWB, , and his earlier remarks about the Prussian state.
But in French cookery and fashion, he sees irrefutable proof of cultural decadence. More seriously, he criticizes France for having brought such destruction to the German Rhineland in the wars of the s and finds the nation lacking in moral responsibility SWB, He offers assurances that he will not be affected by his stay in France and that he will remain a German until his return, but elsewhere he suggests that he will probably never return to Germany SWB, , Like Herder, he argues that cultural difference undermines any exclu7 sive claim to moral right. The same voice which tells the Christian to forgive his enemy tells the South Sea islander to roast his, and he eats him up piously.
This theme is central to several of his works, where it has both comic and tragic implications. On his twenty-fourth birthday, when he reached the age of majority, he wrote to Wilhelmine of his plan to move to Switzerland, buy land, and to take up farming in accordance with his belief that productive activity, such as cultivating land and having children, was prescribed by nature and could bring fulfillment. In any case, his hopes of settling in Switzerland came to nothing, for the military intervention of Napoleonic troops in March led him to fear that he would end up a citizen of France, rather than Switzerland.
Politics had finally encroached upon a space that Kleist hoped would offer an alternative to a class-bound Prussia and a frivolous post-revolutionary France. Despite the growing unrest, Kleist did not return to his native Prussia, but remained in Switzerland until October and worked diligently on his first play, Die Familie Schroffenstein The Schroffenstein Family , which was published to moderate critical acclaim in late or early Kleist left Switzerland as civil war between conservatives and liberals erupted there again. From Wieland he gained enthusiastic praise for extracts from his unfinished drama Robert Guiskard, which he recited from memory.
In the summer of , Kleist traveled with his friend Pfuel in Switzerland and northern Italy, and worked furiously on Guiskard. But on 5 October, he announced to Ulrike that he could not complete the play and declared himself cursed with a half-formed talent. Clearly under great mental and emotional strain, he declared that he could not go on. He traveled onward through France with Pfuel and, having burnt his manuscript in Paris, went on to St.
Omer, where he tried to enlist in the Napoleonic 9 army, first as an officer, then as an ordinary soldier. In fact, the Prussian ambassador ordered Kleist to return to Prussia.
Now, surely, an explanation would be required of him. In fact, Kleist still did not return directly to his homeland. He spent several months in Mainz in the care of Dr. Georg Wedekind, though his claim to have been convalescing during this time may not have been wholly true SWB, He had left Prussia hoping to live as a free moral subject, but both this aspiration and his literary ambitions appeared to have been thwarted.
The tolerance shown for the wayward Kleist demonstrates the extent to which he benefited from the special protection offered to aristocrats in old regime Prussia.
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Indeed, Kleist was even spared a formal examination before his entry to the civil service. Leading proponents of reform taught or supervised Kleist at this time, including Christian Jacob Kraus, professor of cameralism at the university.
In fact, Prussia exchanged the provinces of Ansbach and Bayreuth for Hanover in early , as part of an accommodation that Prussia reached with Napoleonic France following the defeat of Austria and her allies at Austerlitz in December These events horrified Kleist. At the same time, Kleist could not be expected to portray himself as anything other than an enthusiastic reformer when writing to his superior.
He had accepted the leave offered him by Altenstein in order to escape gracefully from the expectations placed upon him SWB, However, he and his companions did not reach their goal because they were arrested in French-occupied Berlin on suspicion of 15 spying for the Prussian army. Kleist spent the next six months imprisoned in France, though he was able to continue working on Penthesilea and Die Marquise von O. The Marquise of O. Kleist was finally released in July after the Treaty of Tilsit and made his way to Dresden, where his play Amphitryon had been published earlier that year, and where he felt the literary market had been least damaged by the French occupation SWB, , Hartmann, J.
This story is not implausible, for Kleist was under intense pressure: his work was not reaching the prices that he hoped for and public tastes were at variance with the kind of dramatic work he was producing SWB, , The summer of also saw the start of a period of frenetic political engagement for Kleist. Not only did he write in the service of German liberation, he also became involved with anti-French resistance groups in 16 Dresden. Like his friend Pfuel, Kleist was, it seems, active in exchanging information with Prussian conspirators, and possibly spying, in late and early The Austrian victory at Aspern on 21—22 May left Kleist in no doubt that the time had come when Prussia would join the fight against France, and that Napoleon would no longer be able to divide and rule Europe.
He followed with interest the progress of the Prussian Major Schill, who had defied orders to lead his forces out against Napoleon SWB, — In spring Kleist was highly productive across a wide range of literary forms. However, his hopes for Germania ended with the Austrian defeat at Wagram in early July, which was quickly followed by a ceasefire.