Academic journal article German Quarterly

Ikarus in Preußen: Heinrich von Kleists Traum von einer besseren Welt

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Ikarus in Preußen: Heinrich von Kleists Traum von einer besseren Welt

Article excerpt

Peter, Klaus. Ikarus in Preußen: Heinrich von Kleists Traum von einer besseren Welt. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2007. 131 pp. euro29.00 paperback.

Of the four essays in Ikarus in Preußen, one is recent (2005) and three were published previously between 1992 and 1995. A brief foreword connects the essays by means of the Icarus metaphor: in Kleist's attempts to change an increasingly inhumane world, he "wagte viel, flog hoch und stürzte ab" (vii). This analogy inaugurates the biographical emphasis - the "Sicht auf den Dichter" (vii) - employed throughout the study.

In the opening article, Peter argues that Kleist's Prinz Friedrich von Homburg portrays two Prussias in opposition: one, a state "des starren Rechts" (6), the other a speculative ideal in which love, marriage, and family serve as paradigm for the state's relationship to its people. Peter carefully traces the idea of "Liebesehe" as a model Staatsform in writings by Novalis and Adam Müller, asserting its influence on the initial dream in Prinz Friedrich and on the play's conclusion. In Peter's view, Kleist projected a "neuefs] Preußen im Zeichen der Liebe" (27), for he believed that only such a state could elicit of its subjects the devotion required to defeat Napoleon. Eliding the Elector's role in provoking the Prince's transgression, Peter reads the play's ending as an unambivalent reconciliation: "Thema des Stückes ist die (Wieder-) Herstellung der Familie, daß der Vater als Vater handelt und dem Sohn verzeiht" (24). By depicting an accepting, forgiving family as a model for a new Prussia, Kleist unites Romanticism and politics.

In his essay "Sehnsucht nach dem Gott," Peter again posits a happy end to Prinz Friedrich, unmitigated by irony- "Was er in der ersten Szene des Stückes träumte, jetzt ist es Wirklichkeit. Was ihm dort verheißen wurde, jetzt ist es wahr " (62) . Similarly, he sees no ambivalence in the end oí Amphitryon, reading it as the dawn of a new world order in which the gods - as embodied by the nascent Herakles - remain present to mankind: "Mit Hilfe der Mythologie öffnet sich die erstarrte Welt dem anderen, das verloren schien [ . . . ] und der 'Göttertag' ist mehr als bloßer Traum. Er eröffnet Möglichkeiten der Liebe, des Glückes, die den Göttern vorbehalten schienen" (39). The essay's final paragraph states the rationale for these unalloyed conclusions. Questions such as whether Alkmene can recover from her ordeal, or whether Prince Friedrich can return from the death he so fully embraced, were, according to Peter, of little interest to Kleist. …

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