David Wellbery at Nonsite:
The brief examination of the work of Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) conducted here is intended as an essay in criticism in the spirit of Sartre: “Une technique romanesque renvoie toujours à la métaphysique du romancier. La tâche du critique est de dégager celle-ci avant d’apprécier celle-là.” The concept of metaphysics Sartre employs refers, on my reading, to the hardly controversial thought that literary works generally (not only novels) render worlds imaginatively present, and that these worlds exhibit principles of intelligibility. To free up the metaphysics of an artistic world, then, is to solicit the deep criteria (or categories) that organize that world. Such criticism brings the form of an aesthetically achieved world to light and demonstrates how that form is made salient linguistically, rhetorically, narratively, dramatically, and so forth. Call this the non-formalistic criticism of form. Needless to say, the account of Kleist’s work I develop here does not aspire to exhaustiveness. The aim, rather, is to limn the contours of Kleist’s artistic achievement such that acknowledgement of its originality and importance is felt to constitute an intellectual obligation. Acknowledgement, a variant of Hegelian “recognition,” deserves to replace the now faded and, in Sartre’s use, merely technical notion of appreciation.