Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Modern Languages and Literature (German Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures

Committee Chair

Elizabeth Ametsbichler

Commitee Members

Hiltrud Arens, James McKusick


Darstellung, Das Erdbeben in Chili, Die Marquise von O..., Heinrich von Kleist, Narratology, Reader-Response Theory


University of Montana


The literary works of Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) have long been an important influence on thinkers and writers interested and engaged in the German cultural tradition, particularly due to the enigmatic and highly problematic nature of his narrative approach. In recent years, however, there has been a notable surge of interest in Kleist’s works, which has led to the production of several articles, papers, and even entire conference panels dedicated to the investigation of his oeuvre from various angles. Why does Kleist still fascinate his readers so much, and what is it about his texts that allow for such a large and varied body of interpretation? In this thesis, I will argue that it is crucial to examine closely the interface of text and reader when analyzing Kleist’s novellas, specifically "Die Marquise von O…" and "Das Erdbeben in Chili." I will then attempt to establish a link between Kleist’s unique reaction to the philosophical debates concerning epistemology and aesthetics that were taking place during his short lifetime and the experience of the reader when confronting Kleist’s texts. I will examine these questions first with the aid of narratology and reader-response theory, particularly by examining the issues of closure and focalization in the two narratives. Furthermore, I will illustrate how a narratological/reader-response approach to Kleist’s work can also inform a feminist critical approach and, likewise, how a feminist analysis can complement the former. In the final chapter, I will conduct a feminist analysis, focusing on both form and content in the two novellas to show how Kleist’s work both structurally and thematically challenges “male” Enlightenment values such as order and logic. These analyses ultimately illustrate how Kleist displaced the philosophical questions with which he was grappling into the realm of the text-reader interface, thus emulating and illuminating with this relationship the self’s quest for knowledge and meaning in the world.



© Copyright 2009 Lindsey Brandt