Heinrich von Kleist – Stages of Literary History

Literary-historical exhibition at the Heidelberg Heiliggeistkirche commemorating the 200th anniversary of Kleist’s death. An event funded by the Kleist Year 2011 programme.

This exhibition portrayed the life of Heinrich von Kleist and offered a diverse range of insights into how the poet worked and published his pieces. The Kleist Archive, established 20 years ago, holded an impressive collection of Kleist’s writings, including original manuscripts on loan from private and public donors. The exhibition offered visitors access to Kleist’s sources and, on the basis of Kleist’s first editions and manuscripts, provided a detailed view of how Kleist worked on his texts. The emphasis on philological detail sat this exhibition apart from the context-oriented exhibition in Berlin.

In contrast to the major Kleist exhibitions in West Berlin and Marbach in 1977, the Heidelberg project was able to take advantage of the Brandenburg Kleist Edition and extensively document the sources of Kleist’s writings. The curators placed particular emphasis on the auratic character of the displayed exhibits, the majority of which was publicly presented for the very first time. In addition to all the existing first editions (including the two divergent editions of “Familie Schroffenstein” and rare copies of all the “Phöbus” issues), the exhibition featured numerous original manuscripts (e.g. the Heidelberg “Homburg” manuscript and the Berlin police reports published in the “Berliner Abendblätter”) and a representative selection of correspondence.

The exhibition was also accompanied by public lectures based on biographical, political and theatre-historical topics. A richly illustrated catalogue also supplemented the exhibition.

The curators of the exhibition were also the editors of the “Brandenburg Kleist Edition”, Prof. Dr. Roland Reuß and Dr. Peter Staengle, commissioned by the Institut für Textkritik e.V., Heidelberg University and its German Studies department.


Both curators, Prof. Dr. Roland Reuß and Dr. Peter Staengle, have made a name for themselves as editors of the “Brandenburg Kleist Edition” (1988-2010) and the historical-critical “Franz Kafka Edition” (1995ff.). Their work as exhibition curators began in 2008 with the Kafka commemorative exhibition at the Heidelberg University Library. The Insitut für Textkritik was founded in 1994 as a non-profit organization devoted to studying important works of literature.


Anne Maase
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

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06110 Halle (Saale)

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