Heinrich von Kleist

Heinrich von Kleist

Writing after Kant

Tim Mehigan

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Kleist viewed anew as a major contributor to the tradition of post-Kantian thought.
The question of Heinrich von Kleist's reading and reception of Kant's philosophy has never been satisfactorily answered. The present study aims to reassess this question, particularly in the light of Kant's rising importance for the humanities today. It argues not only that Kleist was influenced by Kant, but also that he may be understood as a Kantian, albeit an unorthodox one.
The volume integrates material previously published by the author, now updated, with new chapters to form a greater whole. What results is a coherent set of approaches that illuminates the question of Kleist's Kantianism from different points of view. Kleist is thereby understood not only as a writer but also as a thinker - one whose seriousness of purpose and clarity of design compares with that of other early expositors of Kant's thought such as Reinhold and Fichte. Through the locutions and idioms of fiction and the essay, Kleist becomes visible for the first time as an original contributor to the tradition of post-Kantian ideas.

Tim Mehigan is Professorial Chair of German in the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Honorary Professor in the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Kleist and the Problem of Self-Consciousness
Kleist's "Kant Crisis" and Its Consequences
"Betwixt a false reason and none at all": Kleist and Skepticism
On the Excluded Middle in Penthesilea
Heinrich von Kleist's Concept of Law, with Special Reference to "Michael Kohlhaas"
"Über das Marionettentheater"
The Narrative Paradigm: Text as Contract
"Die Marquise von O. . .": The Marriage Contract
"Michael Kohlhaas": Death and the Contract
"Der Donnerkeil des Mirabeau": Kleist's Essay "Über dieallmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden"
Kleist's Fiction from a Game-Theoretical Perspective: "Die Verlobung in St. Domingo" as an Example
The Process of Inferential Contexts: Franz Kafka Reading Heinrich von Kleist
Works Cited


[E]xplores Kleist's response to Kant from an impressive variety of philosophical and theoretical positions to create a cohesive case for "the complex dialogue between philosophy and literature" (vii). At the same time, the illuminating readings of individual works underwrite the productive potential of such an approach. . . . Mehigan's case for Kleist's "writing after Kant" is rich and informative and a truly interdisciplinary work that will engage readers across philosophical and literary discourses. GERMAN QUARTERLY

[A]ll [the chapters] succeed in opening up challenging and productive perspectives. . . . [A] significant, distinctive, and hugely rewarding contribution to existing Kleist scholarship. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

Mehigan's command of Kleist, the secondary literature, and the philosophical contexts is breathtaking. Equally impressive, his explanations of the often abstruse philosophical doctrines are fluent and clear. . . . [This] is a fine contribution to the body of work commemorating Kleist's bicentennial. GOETHE YEARBOOK

The material is well arranged, beginning with the Kant experiences and progressing to the immediate results of those studies, then to the prose works that illustrate the excellent idea that the stories contain contracts and a tripartite organization reminiscent of drama. . . . The author . . . presents a discussion of game theory as an interpretive tool . Surprisingly, this approach has rarely been used. . . . This book goes well beyond Mehigan's earlier work, into original and neglected areas of research. CHOICE

Mehigan succeeds brilliantly in describing the problem of human consciousness . . . . The author is successful in providing a philosophical reading . . . that maintains the perspectives he outlines. . . . Heinrich von Kleist: Writing after Kant provides sound material for new discussion . . . . Sandra Markewitz, LITERATURKRITIK.DE

Author Bio

Tim Mehigan is professor of German and head of the Department of German and Russian at the University of Melbourne.

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