The Stories of Heinrich von Kleist

July 2001
255 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132277
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT018000

The Stories of Heinrich von Kleist

Fictions of Security

Seán Allan

New and insightful interpretations of the controversial stories of Heinrich von Kleist.
The fascinating and controversial German writer of dramas and novellas Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) is one of the most interesting objects of analysis for scholars of German literature even today, nearly two centuries after his death by suicide. In recent years, disagreements among Kleist scholars have been so extreme that some have suggested that his work subverts the very process of interpretation. Seán Allan challenges this view and the related one of Kleist as a profound pessimist. He argues that the focus on Kleist's uninterpretability has obscured important elements of social criticism present in his 'moral stories.' To correct the widely-held view of Kleist as a 'poet without a society,' Allan approaches the stories via investigation of four thematic clusters: justice and revenge; revolution and social change; education and the nature of evil; and art and religion. Allan holds that the perspective endorsed by the Kleistian narrator is designed to reflect the assumptions and prejudices of the members of the dominant class of Kleist's time (authoritarian and male-dominated as it was), and finds that by the end of the stories it is precisely this perspective that has been profoundly called into question.

Seán Allan is lecturer in German at the University of Warwick, UK.

Table of Contents

The World of Heinrich von Kleist
Michael Kohlhaas
Der Zweikampf
Das Erdbeben in Chili
Die Verlobung in St. Domingo
Der Findling
Die Marquise von O...
Die heilige Cäcilie oder die Gewalt der Musik
Works Consulted


The best English-language introduction to Kleist and his work since John Ellis's Heinrich von Kleist (1979).... CHOICE

Allan's well-researched and perceptive analysis reacquaints us with a crucial dimension of Kleist's writings. A timely study.... GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Well suited to making a key part of Kleist's oeuvre, his stories, understandable.... MONATSHEFTE

Also in Series