Monday, December 1, 2008

Heinrich von Kleist and German Romanticism

Heinrich von Kleist and German Romanticism: As one of the most prodigious authors in the literary genre of German Romanticism, Kleist often lived in the shadows of bigger names like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. He constantly felt pressure to write short stories and perform plays at his very best, especially since most of his critics seemed to express a perpetual disregard for his works. Probably his two most reputable works include Penthesilea (1808) and The Marquise of O (1808). One of Kleist's favorite literary techniques involved the insertion of an anachronistic idea into a historical situation, which could leave the reader both bemused and intrigued. In fact, Mark Twain adopted this technique to write A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). Above all, Kleist's work epitomized not only class consciousness and misogyny in the Napoleonic Era, but also a distinct penchant for Counter-Enlightenment thinking. In a series of philosophical pamphlets such as On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking, Kleist advocated the idea of acting before thinking, which certainly qualified as both anti-intellectual and hyper-romantic at the same time.

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