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“A Deeper Gaze into the Human Heart: Schiller’s 'Pitaval' and the 'Code Napoleon'”



Katrin Trüstedt (Universität Erfurt)


Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 12:00pm


Pigott Hall (Bldg 260), Room 252



“A Deeper Gaze into the Human Heart: Schiller’s 'Pitaval' and the 'Code Napoleon'”

At the end of the 18th century, Friedrich Schiller selected, translated and edited legal cases collected by the French Lawyer Francois Gayot de Pitaval. By doing so, he participated in a broader intellectual engagement with clinical and juridical case studies that promised a new interdisciplinary knowledge of human nature: in his introduction to the collection, Schiller claims that an understanding of the particular lives recorded in court transcripts will offer “deeper gazes into the human heart.” The idea that the courts would be in this way concerned with a grasp of the subject can be found not only in literary and philosophical debates of the time, but also in discussions of legal reforms that would later be implemented as the Code Napoléon. These reforms shifted the focus from the deed to the doer, from the body of the delinquent to his or her soul. Like many of the case studies around 1800, they aimed at a new individual subject equipped with inner motives. That very subject, however, nevertheless depended upon procedures, advocates and representatives in order to appear as such. In Katrin's talk, she offers a reading of one of the cases in Schiller’s Pitaval that revolves around a woman who is presented to us without reference to any record of statements of her own. Instead, the case rests solely on competing assertions of self-proclaimed advocates and representatives speaking for her, including, ultimately, those of the narrator. In Katrin's reading, she compares the complex legal and literary forms of representation that it takes to constitute a case and explores their ambivalent role in establishing a “deeper gaze into the human heart.”
Katrin Trüstedt is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Erfurt. She received her PhD from the European University at Frankfurt/Oder with a thesis on Shakespeare’s Tempest and the relation of tragedy and comedy in Hegel, Nietzsche, Benjamin and others. She is currently working on her second book on figures of Stellvertretung (advocacy, agency, representation, proxy) in rhetoric, law, theatre, and the novel. This fall term, Katrin returned as a Visiting Researcher to the German Department at Yale University, where she was a Humboldt Fellow in 2012 and 2013.