Iris Morrell Humanities and Social Science
A State for Women: Sexual Politics and Radical Liberation in Kleist's Penthesilea
My research project will combine literary and historical analysis with feminist theory in order to engage with Heinrich von Kleists Penthesilea (1804.) One of his lesser-known works, Penthesilea retells the classical story of the queen of the Amazons in her battle with Achilles during the Trojan War. Simultaneously depicting grotesque sexuality and gendered battle between nation states, Penthesilea reveals the complicated understanding of womens power and liberation held by German writers in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution. In my research, I intend to ask the following questions: What would define a state run by women? How does lust configure relationships between the sexes? What does the symbolism of classical mythology tell us about our societal constructions of gendered power? Uniting a close reading of Penthesilea with a robust theoretical understanding of mythology and feminist critical theory, I intend to interpret Penthesilea in light of theories of sexual politics.