Figures of Simplicity: Sensation and Thinking in Kleist and Melville (Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory)

By Birgit Mara Kaiser

A attention-grabbing comparability of the paintings of Heinrich von Kleist and Herman Melville.

Figures of Simplicity explores a different constellation of figures from philosophy and literature—Heinrich von Kleist, Herman Melville, G. W. Leibniz, and Alexander Baumgarten—in an try and recuperate substitute conceptions of aesthetics and dimensions of considering misplaced within the disciplinary narration of aesthetics after Kant. this is often performed basically through tracing various “simpletons” that populate the writings of Kleist and Melville. those figures usually are not totally ignorant, or silly, yet easy. Their simplicity is a fashion of pondering, one who Birgit Mara Kaiser indicates is affective considering. Kaiser avers that Kleist and Melville are experimenting of their texts with an affective mode of considering, and thereby proceed a key line inside eighteenth-century aesthetics: the relation of rationality and sensibility. via her analyses, she bargains an summary of what considering can appear like if we take affectivity under consideration.

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Melville may need examine Kleist, possibly whilst he learn Goethe in translation, or later, whilst he intensely learn Schopenhauer, yet that might hardly ever were greater than the come upon of a reputation. And the paintings that the majority encompassingly familiarized Melville with German literature, philosophy, and culture—Madame de Staël's On Germany—does now not point out Kleist, that is stunning, due to the fact that Madame de Staël valued Kleist's paintings hugely or even knew him for my part. We needs to hence conclude—and the shortcoming of comparative reports at the implicitly proves this—that Melville neglected Kleist, and it wishes no point out that the opposite is additionally the case. therefore, we're impelled to continue in a different way whilst checking out their connection. One replacement would definitely be to pursue their universal assets. yet aside from Shakespeare, whose significance has been proven for both,1 those assets are both so vast or so tough to examine that such an procedure doesn't look very effective both. Kleist drew—besides being conversant in a lot of late-eighteenth-century French and German literature and such a lot modern philosophy—most considerably on Montaigne, was once attracted to Rousseau, in clash with Goethe, and suffered from Kant, to call a few of his major highbrow interlocutors. Melville was once additionally good learn in a lot of English romanticism and in English and American literature of the past due eighteenth and the early 19th century. He had a specific curiosity in Coleridge and Carlyle, and nice appreciation for his modern and good friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. regardless of this sizeable spectrum, although, there's not a unmarried resource that may clarify Kleist's and Melville's shared challenge with find out how to conceive of the considering topic within the most excellent method. 2 either one of them are too eclectic of their variations of fabric, and too idiosyncratic of their processing of what they undertake in order that, in view of this, an intuited connection can't be made believable through a look for shared resources. A second—and extra viable—alternative will be to seek out the matter they're posing and to determine to what volume it's a shared or associated challenge. the reason is, I suggest to think about Kleist and Melville in regard to their shared challenge of the relation of affectivity and considering. regardless of the final loss of comparative experiences on those authors, they've got very lately and selectively started to return up as a outstanding fit. to offer examples—and to my wisdom the single literary experiences that handle them as an informative couple—there is, at the one hand, Martin Greenberg's comparability of Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor and Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas, which considers the exposition of justice and legislations in those texts. With this concentration, Greenberg's examining stands within the culture of the prominence that either writers separately have within the debates on legislations and its relation to literature. And nevertheless, there's Niels Werber's fresh examine at the geopolitics of literature, which considers Kleist and Melville as favourite figures within the geopolitical reimagination of territory and house some time past centuries.

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