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The German beast unleashed : Kleist’s Hermannsschlacht and the suspension of ‘human rights’ in the era of nationalism.

Nitschke, Claudia (2018) 'The German beast unleashed : Kleist’s Hermannsschlacht and the suspension of ‘human rights’ in the era of nationalism.', Publications of the English Goethe Society., 87 (1). pp. 1-14.


This article scrutinises the aporetic confrontation of different ultimate values in Kleist’s infamous Die Hermannsschlacht, namely nationalism and a basic notion of ‘human rights’. Kleist’s play does not settle for one of these priorities, but conceptualizes the nation as a facilitator, promulgator, and protector of rights and — at the very same time — as an inexorable principle of selection which ties the notions of exclusion and elimination closely to those of inclusion and participation. In this respect, Die Hermannsschlacht not only prepares and anticipates elements of Carl Schmitt’s political theory, but also comes very close to Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty and the production of politically qualified life in his Homo Sacer series. However, it does so without completely abandoning the universal ideas of human rights.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Publications of the English Goethe Society on 12 Feb 2018, available online:
Date accepted:08 January 2018
Date deposited:30 January 2018
Date of first online publication:12 February 2018
Date first made open access:12 February 2019

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