GERM-565 Aesthetics and Politics: Kleist and his time
Fall for 2013-2014
In recent years, Heinrich von Kleist's oeuvre has attracted renewed attention among scholars for its philosophically and aesthetically sophisticated engagement with questions of politics, war, terror and revolution. In view of the 200th anniversary of Kleist's death, this course will interrogate the links between aesthetics and politics in the literature, philosophy and culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Germany through an exploration of works by Kleist and his contemporaries. We will read novellas, plays, letters and journalistic writings by Kleist in tandem with theoretical and literary texts by eighteenth and nineteenth-century authors such as Schiller, Kant, Hegel and Büchner. In addition, we will explore the implications for Kleist’s work of more recent interventions in aesthetic and political theory (Schmitt, Rancière, Buck-Morss).
Following an introductory unit on late-eighteenth-century aesthetics, the course will be divided into three units. The first will focus on the relationship between power and aesthetic representation in the plays of Kleist and Schiller, with special emphasis on theories of the political and legitimation. In the second unit, we will concentrate on the depiction of war, terrorism and social upheaval in Kleist's novellas and plays, with emphasis on Kleist's own political activities. The third unit will explore questions of colonialism and historical change through readings of Kleist's novellas Das Erdbeben in Chili and Die Verlobung in St. Domingo.
For a more detailed description of the course’s thematic and lexico-grammatical goals, please see the course syllabus (in Explore).
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