On the Marionette Theater

This story rules.

Read it here: http://www.southerncrossreview.org/9/kleist.htm

Here’s a blurb about it via Wikipedia:

In a simulated dialogue, Kleist has one of the interlocutors comment that marionettes possess a grace humans do not, a view which contradicts all aesthetic concepts of the past. Our consciousness and capacity for reflection cause us to doubt ourselves or become self-conscious, and prevent us from acting with the singlemindedness and purity of an animal or a puppet.[citation needed] And yet, consciousness is the effect of eating from the tree of knowledge, and we cannot escape it, as long as we are barred from Eden. The interlocutor suggests that the only way out of this dilemma would be to go all the way through, because the garden of Eden could possibly be open on the other side: if we continue to become more intelligent, wiser, and more self-aware, we may eventually be able to carry out the actions we choose, with the same confidence and harmony as a marionette dancing on the strings of a puppeteer.[citation needed] Consciousness creates a split in our nature, rendering us neither animals nor gods. The ultimate development of humankind would be to bring these two parts of ourselves into harmony and no longer suffer doubt or internal conflict.[citation needed] The ending of the essay might seem hopeful, but it leaves the question open as to whether this kind of perfection will ever be possible. It is difficult to determine Kleist’s intentions or personal view, because the two interlocutors in the dialogue are obviously presented in an ironic way. Rather than a serious proposal of Kleist’s ideas it seems more like an ironic play on the vain ideals of classicism and romanticism.[citation needed]

This essay also shows Fichte’s influence on Kleist. Similar to Kleist, Fichte had emphasised man’s ability and necessity to develop his mind in infinity, without ever being able to reach identity with the absolute, because the individual’s existence just hangs on the difference.

Without Kleist saying this expressedly, works of art, such as his own, may offer an artificial image of this ideal, though this is in itself wrenched out from the same sinful state of insufficiency and rupture that it wants to transcend.

Kleist’s philosophy is the ironic rebuff of all theories of human perfection, whether this perfection is projected in a golden age at the beginníng (HölderlinNovalis), in the present (Hegel), or in the future (as the philosophers of the enlightenment and still Marx would have seen it). His essays show man, like the literary works, torn apart by conflicting forces and held together on the surface only by illusions, like that of real love (if this was not the worst of all illusions). Jeronimo, for example, in Kleist’s The Earthquake in Chile, is presented as emotionally and socially repressed and incapable of self-control, but still clinging to religious ideas and hopes. At the end of a process marked by chance, luck and coincidence, and driven by greed, hatred and the lust for power, embodied in a repressive social order, the human being that at the beginning had been standing between execution and suicide, is murdered by a mob of brutalized maniacs who mistake their hatred for religious feelings.

The ending of this novella could be used to describe Kleist’s concept of life as well as his philosophy and aesthetics, expressed in the ironic style which fits the content: “And sometimes … it almost seemed to him, that he ought to be happy.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On the Marionette Theater

  1. Jason Tougaw says:

    Fascinating. I really want to read this.

Comments are closed.