Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To save a shortcut to an article to your desktop…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

The way you save a shortcut to an article on your desktop depends on what internet browser (and device) you are using.

  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Internet Explorer
  • Opera


For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Schaefer, M. (1975). Kleist's “About the Puppet Theater” and the Narcissism of the Artist. Am. Imago, 32(4):366-388.

(1975). American Imago, 32(4):366-388

Kleist's “About the Puppet Theater” and the Narcissism of the Artist

Margret Schaefer, Ph.D.

Although Kleist's “About the Puppet Theater” has been the subject of voluminous commentary by German writers, critics, and philosophers, it is little known in English speaking circles. Yet this short dialogue, ostensibly about the nature of grace and its relationship to consciousness, which argues that lifeless marionettes and men with artificial legs are more graceful than normal human beings can ever hope to be, is a fascinating and enigmatic piece. Few works have so puzzled yet so intrigued readers. Rilke called it a “master-piece, which continually impresses me;” Hofmannsthal considered it the equal of one of Plato's dialogues; painters, actors, and directors have recreated it on canvas, on stage, radio, and on recordings; yet there is little agreement as to what the dialogue is about. Although it is generally considered central to an undertanding of Kleist—“Rune and Symbol” of him as Hanna Hellmann claimed in her famous essay of 1911—it has been interpreted as everything from a parable of Romantic aesthetics, an allegory of the Christian doctrine of justification, a revelation of hermetic gnostic teachings, a coded key to Kleist's other works, to a satire on the Berlin ballet.

Literary critics have treated the work primarily as an intellectual statement, philosophical argument, or allegory of moral or aesthetic ideas, not as a piece of imaginative fiction.

1 In sequence: Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to Marie v.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2020, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.