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By Elystan Griffiths

The German author Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) used to be an unconventional and sometimes arguable determine in his personal day, and has remained so. His principles on paintings, politics, and gender kin proceed to problem glossy readers, and his complicated and significantly open texts stay the thing of full of life scholarly debate. Kleist has usually been portrayed as a ''poet with no society,'' whose writing served as break out from the realities of his social atmosphere. This new research demanding situations one of these view through situating Kleist with regards to the critical political and philosophical debates of his momentous age. It charts the political weather of Kleist's local Prussia via its transformation below Frederick the good right into a best ecu army strength, the hindrance of its defeat and near-destruction less than Napoleon Bonaparte, and its partial reform and reconstruction less than the liberal statesmen Stein, Hardenberg, and Humboldt, and the army leaders Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. in contrast history, the research additionally considers how the major writers and thinkers of the day, together with Kant, Herder, Schiller, Goethe, Fichte, and Adam Müller conceptualized the Germannation as a political and cultural entity. The learn first establishes the German--and Prussian--context of Kleist's day, after which presents a quick advent to Kleist's existence, visible right here particularly relation to the political international. constructing his argument on the subject of Kleist's literary paintings and essays in a chain of shut readings, Elystan Griffiths exhibits how Kleist's writings answered intelligently to 4 urgent political concerns: the connection of nationwide tradition and the country; schooling and social reform; the idea and perform of battle; and management and the supply of justice. Griffiths sheds clean gentle on Kleist's writing by way of putting emphasis on its intricacy and wealthy ambiguity, that are usually simplified or neglected in political reviews of Kleist.

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Kleist allowed both sides of the debate to be represented in his paper, but the government clearly did not welcome any publicity that was given to its detractors. The paper was therefore censored, not only in its explicitly political sections, but also in its news reports, which had overstepped the mark in reporting French defeats on the Iberian peninsula. Nonetheless, commentators have shown that Kleist still did manage to smuggle anti-Napoleonic references into his paper, though it remains unclear to what extent his readers understood them 22 as such.

Vol. 4, Schriften zur Politik und zum Bildungswesen, ed. Andreas Flitner and Klaus Giel (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1982), 188. 85 See Humboldt, Werke in fünf Bänden, 4:189. 83 26 ♦ PRUSSIA AND GERMANY IN KLEIST’S DAY 86 See Humboldt, Werke in fünf Bänden, 4:170. See Humboldt, Werke in fünf Bänden, 4:171. 88 See further Paul R. Sweet, Wilhelm von Humboldt: A Biography, vol. 2, 1808–1835 (Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1980), 53–69. 87 89 For a full account, see Sweet, Wilhelm von Humboldt, 2:62–64.

He argues that virtue, which he conceives of as a practical, rather than a contemplative activity, is the prerequisite for happiness, which consists “in dem erfreulichen Anschaun der moralischen Schönheit unseres eigenen Wesens” (in the pleasant observation of the moral beauty of our own selves; SWB, 3:519). 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.

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