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Prisons and Idylls

Studies in Heinrich von Kleist's Fictional World


Linda Dietrick

Critical attempts to evaluate Kleist's fictional world, e.g. as ordered or disordered, accessible or resistant to reason, face a hermeneutic problem: the material and psychological embeddedness of the characters in the very world they seek to understand.
This problem is reflected not only in the less-than-omniscient perspective of Kleist's narrators, but also in the reader's confrontation with competing readings of events in terms of mythic absolutes and with the opaquely concrete quality of spatial metaphors. In this light, three new interpretations offer insight into such problems as the nature of the idyll in «Das Erdbeben in Chili,» the Marquise von O...'s creative self-imprisonment, and the gypsy's apparently supernatural intervention in Kohlhaas' quest. Finally, the book presents a dynamic typology of spatial phenomena in the stories which accounts for Kleist's concern with the interpretive process as opposed to its presumed endpoint.
Contents: Introduction; I. «Das Erdbeben in Chili» - II. «Die Marquise von O...» - III. «Michael Kohlhaas» - IV. Spatial Structure in Kleist's Fiction.