June 14, 2017
What eternity is can be thought of and is represented in Paul Fleming’s poem Gedancken über der Zeit (1632) only via negationis and only in its inherently contradictory quality: “Time that is without time” ( “Zeit / die ohne Zeit ist” ). The strategic pursuit of “liberation from time” makes it impossible for Fleming to think of the present in historical-political terms. The historical present as something shared, as time that can be transformed by the interaction of historical subjects, is kept at bay by devaluing the temporal. How this present is conceptualized around 1800 is the question this essay seeks to explore, viewing Schiller’s prologue to Wallenstein (1798) as a paradigm of self-reflexive temporalization. As a consequence of the forced temporalizing of historical action that Schiller exposes, the limits of contemporaneous agency ‒ whether in actual historical practice or in the aesthetic realm – become clear: historical subjects no longer have it at their disposal to freely determine their own time and presence.