Schematism: Poetics on the Way to Kant, 1760–1790

During the Wintersemester 2020/21, I am completing revisions of my dissertation project, “Schematism: Poetics on the Way to Kant, 1760–1790.” The project offers an interdisciplinary genealogy of Immanuel Kant’s theory of “schematism,” demonstrating its emergence from literary and artistic practices of movement in Kant’s day. Reconstructing the epistemological question to which Kant’s theory initially responds in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781), my study ultimately focuses on the nature of that response and its reappearance in the Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790) as an account of Darstellung (usually understood as representation). I trace the emergence of this account through a careful study of systematic correspondences between Kant’s theory and three revisions of the status of movement and form in late 18th-century arts and letters: the remodeling of ballet through pantomime in J.-G. Noverre’s Lettres sur la dance (1760), the expressive function of meter in F.G. Klopstock’s odes and poetological reflections (1764–79), and the attribution of efficacy to aesthetic reception in G.E. Lessing’s Laokoon (1766). An unexpected provenance for Kant’s theory thereby comes to light. This provenance, I show, consists in a displacement of the arts’ representational function by the function of actualization: an understanding of art and literature as reality-constituting forms.


Fig. above: Meter of Klopstocks ode »Der Eislauf«, in: Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock: Sämmtliche Werke, vol. 1, Leipzig: Göschen 1823, S. 186

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Research Fellowship 2020–2021
Head researcher(s): Susan Morrow