The essay presents a reading of three war-related texts: Friedrich Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, Heinrich von Kleist’s The Battle of Hermann, and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Written against the background of the Revolutionary Wars and the Prussian Wars of Liberation, respectively, the plays by Schiller and Kleist engage in the discursive construction of an emphatic sense of heimat (home), either by way of creating the new sentiment of homesickness (originally called nostalgia) or by advocating the complete destruction of the very home territory you are trying to defend. Gravity’s Rainbow, in turn, decodes the Second World War as a massive exercise in technology transfer. It effectively presents a deconstruction of heimat in an age in which the imperative to merge technologies supersedes all national agendas.
Friedrich Kittler (1943–2011) studied German, philosophy, and romance studies at the University of Freiburg. He completed his PhD in 1976 and his habilitation, Discourse Networks, in 1984. He was professor of German at the Ruhr University in Bochum (1987–1993) and subsequently appointed the chair in media aesthetics and history at the Humboldt University in Berlin (1993–2008). The key representative of German media theory, Kittler was at the forefront of the German reception of French poststructuralism and is now considered one of the most important media theorists. His work ranges from the early Greek vowel alphabet to the study of computer hardware. Several of his books have been widely translated, including Discourse Networks 1800/1900; Gramophone, Film, Typewriter; and Optical Media.