Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)

Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 0520265602

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno—affiliated through friendship, professional ties, and argument—developed an astute philosophical critique of modernity in which technological media played a key role. This book explores in depth their reflections on cinema and photography from the Weimar period up to the 1960s. Miriam Bratu Hansen brings to life an impressive archive of known and, in the case of Kracauer, less known materials and reveals surprising perspectives on canonic texts, including Benjamin’s artwork essay. Her lucid analysis extrapolates from these writings the contours of a theory of cinema and experience that speaks to questions being posed anew as moving image culture evolves in response to digital technology.





















translation of Theory of Film in early 1965 that his major problem with the book is its failure to address that “against which, after all, the resistance to film on the part of serious human beings is directed”—that, since it is “much more immediately harnessed into the commercial system than any other form of expression, [film] has not evolved an immanent [aesthetic] logic of its own” (AKB 688). To which Kracauer coolly replies that the peculiar characteristics of film that he had discovered and

Anthropological Nihilism, Jung). Also see Buck-Morss, Dialectics of Seeing, chs. 5 and 8. 65. AP (K1a,3); AP 390; interpretive translation in Buck-Morss, Dialectics of Seeing, 274. On Benjamin’s insistence on the historicity—and historiographic significance—of childhood, especially children’s experience of technology, see ibid., 261–65, 273–79. 66. The theory Benjamin refers to is Ludwig Klages’s; see ch. 4, above. 67. “Negativer Expressionismus” (ca. 1921), in GS 4:132. 68. SW 3:94;

nothing and photography assembles fragments around a nothing” (MO 56). Rather than affording a prosthetic extension into a period not lived by consciousness, the photograph irrupts into the beholder’s living present in an unsettling way, signaling his own physical transience along with the instability of the social and economic ground of his existence. In its emphasis on discontinuity and estrangement, this account anticipates Kracauer’s later discussions, in Theory of Film and his posthumously

the cars are driven by young girls, “poor young things who are straight out of the many films in which salesgirls end up as millionaire wives.” They relish the “illusion” of power and control, and their screams are no longer that liberatory. “[Life] is worth living if one plunges into the depth only to dash upward again as a couple [zu zweit].” The seriality of the girl cult is no longer linked to visions of gender mobility and equality, but to the reproduction of private dreams of heterosexual

narrow sense, my frame of reference will be Kracauer’s conversation, actual or virtual, with other Critical Theorists. Therefore, I will try to highlight particular concepts and theoretical tropes in Kracauer’s early texts—such as the motif of an aesthetics of reification, the turn to the surface, the valorization of distraction, the notion of film’s particular capacity to reanimate and reconfigure material objects—that were taken up (though this was for the most part unacknowledged), elaborated,

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