Germanics Public Lecture Series
Heinrich von Kleist's troubled and troubling Penthesilea (1808) has rightly been held by critics to stage the difficulties of understanding other genders and other cultures. In these readings, the Greeks stand in for the male-dominated Western hegemony and the Amazons for the (non-)constitutive Other. This paper, however, argues that Penthesilea herself can be seen as the epitome and limit case of the Cartesian subject. The play thus offers a radical critique of knowing self and other when interior subjectivity is taken literally.