Based on Heinrich von Kleist’s drama Penthesilea and a clinical case, this study seeks to demonstrate a theoretical concept that is developed and identified as the anti-oedipal condition. This state involves a regressive insistence on suffocating any form of oedipal maturation and, with it, any form of genital–sexual desire; it damages, even destroys, any form of intellectual–creative curiosity. A specific form of defensive organization, the anti-oedipal condition, is sought out when psychic development, when oedipal–genital maturation requires re-establishing contact with a sort of inner terra cremata, an emotional domain that once had been supposed to be eliminated due to catastrophic experiences that could not be integrated. This defensive organization dominated Kleist’s Amazons as well as Miss M. What happened first in both instances was a regression to and fixation at the anti-oedipal condition, but the paths leading out of this incapsulation were antipodal.
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.
Subjects: Language & Literature