Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

The Pace of the Attack: Military Experience in Schiller's Wallenstein and Die Jungfrau Von Orleans

Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

The Pace of the Attack: Military Experience in Schiller's Wallenstein and Die Jungfrau Von Orleans

Article excerpt

CONTEMPORARY SCHOLARS AGREE THAT THE WARFARE that ravaged Europe between 1792 and 1815 was as formative for the culture of the period as the French and Industrial Revolutions. The Napoleonic Age has been described as the moment at which sustained international conflict became an "all-engrossing spectacle"1 that structured communal existence such that a militarized society became the norm, an everyday affair under "whose reign we may still be living today.2 Such claims are supported by the work of military historians, who generally view the Napoleonic Era as the first time that entire nations *were mobilized in the support of "well-defined military goals, the inauguration of an epoch of "total "war" that "would reach its apotheosis in the titanic world wars of the twentieth century3 Guided by these observations, one can identify numerous literary and philosophical texts from around 1800 that ask whether the fighting of the day "was a genuinely new phenomenon or a logical outgrowth of longstanding trends. Questions about the form - and the inevitability - of future "wars "were also a prominent concern.

In exploring the conceptualization of "war in this period, it is important to recognize that its disruptive potential constituted a challenge both to existing power structures and to the "way in which the representation of historical experience "was understood. If military scholars today tend to stress the scale and destructiveness of the combat at Waterloo orAusterlitz, authors at the turn of the nineteenth century also dwelled on the complex epistemologica! problems presented by these epic clashes. In this essay, I argue that the conviction that military events engender as many philosophical exigencies as material ones is central to the plays of Friedrich Schiller. The theme of "warfare in Schiller's dramas has been much discussed, and in fact, it has frequently been argued that his depictions of historical figures are allegorical meditations on the rise of Napoleon and the changing nature of political authority. There has nonetheless been a tendency to underestimate the theoretical sophistication of Schiller's contributions.4 In his Wallenstein trilogy and Die Jungfrau von Orleans, he shows that armies develop their own representational systems designed to elucidate the significance of battles as they occur. In these terms, "war unfolds as an auto-interpretive enterprise "whereby opposing parties set forth not simply an account of their aims and accomplishments, but standards for judging the meaningfulness of the events they seek to bring about.5 Far from merely "selling" their operations as necessary evils, wars present themselves as prototypes of individual and collective action. Schiller's ultimate claim is thus that "war is not simply a struggle to subdue a foe, but an attempt to govern the paradigms of historical praxis as such.

Written between 1799 and 1801, Wallenstein and Die Jungfrau are alike in a number of respects.6 Both focus on revered leaders "who "won fame in wars that "were seemingly interminable; and in both instances, the longstanding conflict outlived the hero by decades. The protagonists ,Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, and Johanna, "The Maid," embody exaggerated traits of military prowess, although each endures a period of inactivity in which what is not done is more significant than what is. Both dramas also present military ventures as efforts to control rhetorical forces. In Wallenstein, the focus is on the tension between individual agency and the allegorical dynamics that impose themselves each time one of the characters tries to fashion a language with which to articulate the tactics and goals of the forces he commands. In Die Jungfrau, it is the representational praxis of battlefield operations that is at issue as the heroine struggles "with emblems and icons rather than swords and arrows. In both cases, the claim to discursive supremacy is a key feature of martial authority, but paradoxically, it turns out that fighting over the symbols of "warfare makes it more difficult to confirm one's prowess as a warrior. …

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