Publication details [#8916]

Pollard, Matthew. 1997. The bodies of Kleist: Aspects of corporeality in his dramatic works. Montreal, Canada. URL


This dissertation examines the representations of the body in the completed dramatic works of Heinrich von Kleist (1777 - 1811). While taking into account the psychoanalytical and philosophical approaches to Kleist, this project has Heiner Miller's words as its point of departure: that the theater represents the collision of ideas with the body. The forces of power, gender and authority leave their traces of this collision on the bodies of his characters, whose metaphorical and literal falls, wounds and recoveries speak their own gestural language. This study is organized on the principle of Kleist's use of genre designation, the approximate chronological order of his plays, and the representation of the body. Chapter one focuses on 'Die Familie Schroffenstein', 'Der zerbrochne Krug', and 'Amphitryon' and the notion of bodily authenticity and integrity; chapter two, on 'Die Hermannsschlacht' and 'Penthesilea', looks at the spectacle of violence and its effect on the body mobilized by emotional extremity; the third chapter, on Kleist's most celebrated works, 'Prinz Friedrich von Homburg' and 'Das Käthchen von Heilbronn', examines aspects of gender and vulnerability. The conclusion views his essay "Über das Marionettentheater" not as a key to understanding his works, but rather as a culmination of them, and investigates Kleist's writing on the wounded body and its connection to grace. (Matthew Pollard)