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Drawing on Kleist’s own reflections on the process of literary and artistic creativity, we will develop a model of cultural change that is rooted, not in the radical rejection of pre-existing discourses, but in a process of development and evolution.

Our project will address two main questions:

1. How does Kleist transform educational models as embodied in eighteenth-century pedagogical discourses, literature and drama?

  • What underlying assumptions are made about the human capacity to learn?
  • What concepts of gender, freedom, morality, race, nationhood and duty to the state are developed and how is education thought of as promoting them?
  • How do aesthetics express and promote ethics?
  • How does Kleist absorb, develop and change late eighteenth-century ethical values and aesthetic practices?

2. How are conceptualisations of violence in Kleist's work related to models of education?

  • In what ways is violence conceptualised as a means to a higher end, an effect of lack of education, or the result of a defective educational process?
  • What is the role of education in bringing about change by either evolution or violent revolution?
  • What ethical assumptions about the potential of human beings to respond to education are called into question by the representation of violence in Kleist’s works?

In seeking answers to these two clusters of questions, we will analyse:

  • pedagogical discourses which Kleist draws on, notably those of Rousseau, Basedow, Pestalozzi, Campe, Fichte, Kant, Wilhelm von Humboldt and Jean Paul
  • educational models in European prose (Richardson, Rousseau, Wieland), drama (popular bourgeois drama, Schiller's aesthetic education of man), and aesthetic education in music and painting
  • the diversity of Kleist's transformation of concepts of education aiming towards the production of gender, freedom, happiness, duty to the state, virtue
  • Kleist's exploration of violence as pre-requisite, consequence, or aim of education

unverhoffte.jpgRicarda Schmidt, Seán Allan, und Steven Howe, Unverhoffte Wirkungen. Erziehung und Gewalt im werk Heinrich von Kleists (Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2014)