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The Rhetoric of Error from Locke to Kleist$
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Zachary Sng

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780804770170

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804770170.001.0001

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“Inaccurate, as lady linguists often are”: Herodotus and Kleist on the Language of the Amazons

“Inaccurate, as lady linguists often are”: Herodotus and Kleist on the Language of the Amazons

(p.136) Five “Inaccurate, as lady linguists often are”: Herodotus and Kleist on the Language of the Amazons
The Rhetoric of Error from Locke to Kleist
Stanford University Press

This chapter examines the Histories of Herodotus and the tragedy Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist, focusing on how their representation of the misspeaking Amazon reveals how error can render all pairings unlikely. Histories is about the formation of a hybrid nation formed by a union between the Scythian men and the Amazons, while Penthesilea retells the story of the encounter between the Greeks and the Amazons before the walls of Troy, and the ill-fated love affair between Achilles and Penthesilea, the Amazon Queen. Herodotus and Kleist both describe a failed figure called “solecism” that they attribute to the Amazon and which generates the possibility of uncontainable and unpredictable errance. The chapter also considers what Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz claimed to be a reliable marker in the reconstruction of the history of language: the names of rivers. Herodotus and Kleist both use the term Tanaïs for their origin narratives, which simultaneously names and fails to name a river—an unreliability that suggests that it is impossible to reduce errance to a coherent fluvial course.

Keywords:   Histories, Herodotus, Penthesilea, Heinrich von Kleist, Amazons, rivers, language, error, errance, solecism

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