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Save the Prinz: Schiller's Geisterseher and the Lure of Entertainment

from Special Section on Goethe and Idealism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2013

Daniel Purdy
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

THERE IS A PASSAGE in Schiller's poetological writings that merits attention because it captures the essential paradox of Schillerian freedom and didactic intention. This is Schiller's contention in “Über Matthissons Gedichte” (1794) that “die höchste Freiheit gerade nur durch die höchste Bestimmtheit möglich ist.” Within a discussion of landscape description in poetry, Schiller expands on the role of the poet, which is that of determining the reader's sensations for the sake of receptivity to higher ideals. Clearly aware that his remarks on determination evoke coercion, Schiller tries to demonstrate that the paradox of determining thoughts and emotions while preserving the determinee's freedom is merely apparent. He argues that the poet, who must be certain of his effects, but also respect the reader's freedom, will prescribe for the reader exactly that path that the reader's imagination would have taken in full freedom, a formulation that is as logically fraught as the pairing of freedom and determination. He then offers practical advice as to how to accomplish the task of prescribing that which would also be freely chosen. The key lies in apprehending the rules according to which the imagination functions:

Die Imagination in ihrer Freiheit folgt, wie bekannt ist, bloss dem Gesetz der Ideenverbindung, die sich ursprünglich nur auf einen zufälligen Zusammenhang der Wahrnehmungen in der Zeit, mithin auf etwas ganz Empirisches, gründet. Nichts desto weniger muss der Dichter diesen empirischen Effekt der Association zu berechnen wissen, weil er nur insofern Dichter ist, als er durch eine freie Selbsthandlung unsrer Einbildungskraft seinen Zweck erreicht. […]

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Goethe Yearbook 18 , pp. 245 - 258
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

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