Heinrich von Kleist’s “Marquise von O....”: Literary honesty and the precarious potential of disclosure

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Kleist’s early prose tale begins with the announcement of the Marquise’s unusual circumstances in the local intelligence gazettes. The Marquise’s announcement calls on readers to reflect on the function of honesty and sincerity in public texts. The presentation of something unsettling in this opening scene quickly demonstrates that honesty is always more than mere adherence to truth. By paying close attention to the announcement made in Kleist’s text, this article seeks to revise an important perspective found in scholarship on Kleist by viewing his emphasis on privacy, transgression, and individual honesty not as a retreat from emerging public discourse but instead as performative acts of and reflections on disclosure. To do so, this article considers Kleist’s novella in the context of ongoing work in critical theory on the way disclosure informs our understanding of aesthetics in public culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-40
Number of pages19
JournalSeminar - A Journal of Germanic Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies 2021


  • Critical theory
  • Heinrich von Kleist
  • Honesty
  • Judith Butler
  • Jürgen Habermas
  • Phöbus
  • Sincerity
  • The Marquise von O....


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