Santiagos Untergang – Lissabons Schrecken: Heinrich von Kleists Erdbeben in Chili im Kontext des Katastrophendiskurses im 18. Jahrhundert

Christoph Weber


In his novella Das Erdbeben in Chili (1807), Heinrich von Kleist depicts the destruction of the Chilean capital Santiago in 1647 in the wake of a series of seismic shocks. Despite Kleist’s situating of the disaster within a specific spatiotemporal frame, scholars have noted that its descriptive details demonstrate strong correlations with the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Kleist’s intertextual allusions to this widely publicized catastrophe can be substantiated by means of an analysis of two source texts—the eyewitness accounts of Lisbon’s downfall published in the Hannoverisches Magazin (1779) and Theodor Nevermann’s drama Alonzo und Elvira, oder das Erdbeben von Lissabon (1795). Contextualizing the novella within the disaster discourse of the 18th century shows Kleist’s radical break with traditional modes of endowing calamities with meaning to be all the more poignant. The chaos that engulfed both royal cities testifies to a historical continuum punctuated by upheavals devoid of any transcendent meaning. (CW; in German)

This article requires a subscription to view the full text. If you have a subscription you may use the login form below to view the article. Access to this article can also be purchased.

Purchase access

You may purchase access to this article. This will require you to create an account if you don't already have one.