Academic journal article German Quarterly

Poetiken der Interkulturalitat: Haiti bei Kleist, Seghers, Muller, Buch und Fichte

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Poetiken der Interkulturalitat: Haiti bei Kleist, Seghers, Muller, Buch und Fichte

Article excerpt

Uerlings, Herbert. Poetiken der Interkulturalitat.: Haiti bei Kleist, Seghers, Miiller, Buch and Fichte. Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1997. 363 pp. DM 96.00 paperback.

The history of Haiti, which is characterized by an extraordinarily bloody record of crosscultural encounters, is closely related to that of Europe in complicated ways. This relationship leads Uerlings to identify Haiti as a paradigmatic site for studying the distinctness of the processes and effects of colonization and decolonization through literary representations.

Uerlings presents his analysis as a development from Kleist to Fichte and shows how the notion of poetic alterity and self reflective modes of representation gradually increased in importance over the course of two centuries and became the most significant rhetorical strategies. In the introduction he formulates his two-fold goal, namely, to understand the individual texts in relation to other discourses, and secondly, to pursue the question of aesthetics, focusing in particular on what literary texts have to offer over other types of writings engaging with alterity.

He first discusses texts by Kleist, Seghers, and Buch. Uerlings's close reading of "Die Verlobung in San Domingo" reveals that Kleist perpetuates clichs of gendered otherness, in particular in descriptions of black or mixedrace women, and projects notions of problematic sexuality and identity onto the bodies of Haitians. For Seghers, who wrote several stories staged in the Caribbean, Haiti becomes a vehicle to reflect on the question of political order. But her image of Haiti as the utopian Europe excludes an engagement with Haitian alterity and, like Kleist, she sexualizes the political discourse. Only her trilogy "Drei Frauen" offers something new in that the stories are told from the perspective of Haitian women. Ultimately, however, Seghers develops her political critique through her ideas about Haiti and so engages with cultural alterity in only limited ways. Like Seghers, Muller uses Haiti to express his frustration with GDR politics in Der Auftrag. While he seems at first more nuanced than Seghers in criticizing the glorifying image of revolution through a self reflective approach to the question of representation, he nevertheless resorts to idealizing and dramatizing alterity in his images of Haitian revolutionaries. Uerlings's long chapter on Buch commends the author for deconstructing the exoticist discourse on Haiti. …

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