Examines the notion of Darstellung [representation] in the critical discourse of German Idealism and Romanticism, paying particular attention to Kant, Fichte, Novalis, and Kleist.
The Retreat of Representation is the first book-length study to examine the radical new notion of Darstellung in its own discursive context. Martha Helfer traces the term's genealogy from its inception in Kant's Critiques through Fichte's definition of the subject as Darstellung to the poetic theory and praxis of the Jena Romantics. She argues that the conceptually powerful yet tremendously problematic figure of the negative Darstellung of the Kantian sublime opens up the possibility of a poetization of the philosophical discourse of transcendental idealism, and ultimately demonstrates that Kleist's oeuvre constitutes a critique of transcendental theories of Darstellung. Helfer provides remarkably clear, concise readings of major texts of Idealism and Romanticism in light of the Darstellung problematic, advancing compelling interpretations of Novalis's Hymns to the Night as a theory of the Romantic lyric, Kleist's essay On the Marionette Theater as a redaction and revision of the Kantian sublime, The Foundling as a critique of Fichtean ego philosophy, and The Broken Jug as a prototype of Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian critiques of representation
Martha B. Helfer is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Utah.
"I highly recommend The Retreat of Representation . Helfer's pursuit of the concept of Darstellung from Kant through the German Romantics is fresh and significant. Her patient and accessible readings are compelling, and they complement one another nicely in the development of the overall argument." — Tim Walters, University of Rochester
"The topic is extremely significant and timely, central to discussions not only of German Romanticism but to the kind of critical issues arising in a Heideggerian (and post-Heideggerian) context." — Rebecca Comay, University of Toronto