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Difference and OrientationAn Alexander Kluge Reader$
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Alexander Kluge and Richard Langston

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501739200

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501739200.001.0001

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The Difference

The Difference

Heinrich von Kleist

(p.25) 1 The Difference
Difference and Orientation

Alexander Kluge

, Richard Langston
Cornell University Press

This chapter details Alexander Kluge's 1985 acceptance speech on the occasion of receiving the Kleist Prize, which had been revived after a half-century hiatus. Kluge claims that if there is anyone in the German literary tradition who insists on the importance of difference then it is Heinrich von Kleist. He then recounts the work of the writer Robert Musil, who is among the award's many recipients. He also discusses the seam between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a seam where especially open forms developed. These open forms can be found not only in Kleist's but also Friedrich Hölderlin's work. Kluge claims that “at this seam spanning more than three decades bridging these two antagonistic centuries, three new developments arise while individual forces struggle against one another: popular war, industrialization, and the codification of a new tenderness.” He says “it is important to recognize the changed guises these three elementary processes have assumed, processes that begin in earnest in the early nineteenth century but whose roots go back to the eighteenth century.” Ultimately, Kluge is afraid of the incompetence of new media as well as its destructive power to fill people's heads. In the age of new media, Kluge considers writers as the guardians of difference.

Keywords:   Alexander Kluge, Kleist Prize, German literary tradition, difference, Heinrich von Kleist, Robert Musil, Friedrich Hölderlin, popular war, industrialization, new media

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