This lecture has been postponed to the fall, time and date tba.
Irrespective of whether Leichtgläubigkeit (gullibility) is a positive or negative term, connotationally it compels us to pick a side, and thus favours partiality in the directions of Vorurteil (prejudice) or Vorliebe (preference). On the one hand, Selbstbewusstsein (self-consciousness) means das sich-seiner-selbst-bewusst-sein (to-be-conscious-of-one’s-self). On the other, it means that one is conscious of its own separate self—it knows its own self to be separate from another—, and thus, Selbstbewusstsein also compels us to pick a side: our own side. What then is the difference between Selbstbewusstsein and Leichtgläubigkeit? Die Marquise von O… is a story of a noblewoman disclosing her pregnancy in a newspaper announcement and it tells the unfolding of the ambiguous circumstances of her pregnancy as a result of a potential sexual violence. The story challenges the representation of both Selbstbewusstsein and Bewusstsein (consciousness) in relation to deception, memory and secrecy. Within this text, I explore the phenomenon of Leichtgläubigkeit not only through its content but also through its textual ambiguity, which is a common characteristic in Kleist’s writing. Über das Marionettentheater, which is more essayistic in style, tells the story of a conversation between two persons who debate about what influence (self-)awareness and (self-)consciousness have on grace, a form of being which is free from knowing itself as separate from another. Whereas this text also challenges the understanding and representation of both Selbstbewusstsein and Bewusstsein,it does so in relation to absolute knowledge. Through the metaphor of the marionette, I inquire into Leichtgläubigkeit not just as absolute (self-)consciousness and absolute knowledge but also as a lack of (self)-consciousness.
Though in different ways and contexts, both Die Marquise von O… and Über das Marionettentheater problematize the realms of Selbstbewusstsein andcan show not only what distinguishes Selbstbewusstsein from Leichtgläubigkeit but also how that differentiation illuminates how else we can conceptualize Leichtgläubigkeit.
Rita Laszlo is a PhD candidate in the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures at the University of Toronto.
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