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Moved by the PastDiscontinuity and Historical Mutation$
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Eelco Runia

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231168205

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231168205.001.0001

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Thirsting for Deeds

Thirsting for Deeds

Schiller and the Historical Sublime

(p.106) 5 Thirsting for Deeds
Moved by the Past

Eelco Runia

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines what conception of the “historical sublime” is actually operative in Friedrich Schiller's play Die Räuber (“The Robbers”), which has the benefit of treating the sublime from the inside. The difference between history as experienced from the inside and history as experienced from the outside may be reconceptualized in terms of what dominates what. In Schiller's theoretical essays the historical sublime dominates us: in the sublime historical events Schiller meditates upon in his essays a way of life is “overtaken” by what is new. In Schiller's plays, however, the sublime is not primarily something that “overtakes us,” but first and foremost we—or at least some of his heroes—“overtake” the things we take for granted. After discussing Schiller's insights about the sublime in history, the chapter considers his conviction that history is primarily “metamorphosis”—that things change not just marginally but more fundamentally than we can even imagine. Finally, it discusses the condition of “standing on the brink of time,” or what might be called vertigo.

Keywords:   historical sublime, Friedrich Schiller, Die Räuber, history, historical events, metamorphosis, brink of time, vertigo

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