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Framing Attention

Windows on Modern German Culture

Lutz Koepnick

Publication Year: 2007

In Framing Attention, Lutz Koepnick explores different concepts of the window—in both a literal and a figurative sense—as manifested in various visual forms in German culture from the nineteenth century to the present. He offers a new interpretation of how evolving ways of seeing have characterized and defined modernity. Koepnick examines the role and representation of window frames in modern German culture—in painting, photography, architecture, and literature, on the stage and in public transportation systems, on the film screen and on television. He presents such frames as interfaces that negotiate competing visions of past and present, body and community, attentiveness and distraction. From Adolph Menzel's window paintings of the 1840s to Nam June Paik's experiments with television screens, from Richard Wagner's retooling of the proscenium stage to Adolf Hitler's use of a window as a means of political self-promotion, Framing Attention offers a theoretically incisive understanding of how windows shape and reframe the way we see the world around us and our place within it.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: Framing Attention

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pp. 1-26

Windows are odd things. The longer we look through them, the more they confront us with metaphysical mysteries and epistemological conundrums. The more we think about their frames, the less sure we become about how we are able to see and perceive in the first place. Though windows come in all shapes and sizes, their shared function is that...

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1. Menzel’s Rear Window

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pp. 27-61

To be sure, what we see in this image is not a window in the strict sense but a set of French doors, propped open to allow light and air to enter a sparsely furnished interior. Both wings of the door are shrouded in white curtains. A gentle breeze has taken hold of one of the drapes, lifting it up slightly and blowing it smoothly into the room. ...

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2. Richard Wagner and the Framing of Modern Empathy

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pp. 62-94

We have come to think of the bourgeois theater stage as a space separated from the audience by a proverbial fourth wall. Translated in 1760 into Ger-man by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Denis Diderot’s seminal treatise De la poésie dramatique advised playwrights and actors to carry out their respective activities as if no audience were present in front of the stage. ...

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3. Early Cinema and the Windows of Empire

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pp. 95-126

In 1916 German immigrant and Harvard professor Hugo M

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4. Underground Visions

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pp. 127-162

The window of the moving railway train has often been discussed as a site at which we can locate a paradigmatic modernization of visual perception. Nineteenth-century railway travel, it has been argued, helped industrialize the viewing subject, causing the observer to incorporate motion and speed into the very process of seeing. ...

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5. Windows 33/45

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pp. 163-199

In the early evening hours of January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler appeared at the window of his new office to present himself to a chanting crowd gathered in front of the Berlin Chancellery at Wilhelmstraße 78. Located on the second floor, the chancellor’s office had three windows, all overlooking Wilhelmplatz. ...

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6. Fluxus Television

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pp. 200-239

No medium other than television has been more often discussed and experienced—from its very inception—as a window onto the world. On March 11,1963, the industrial city of Wuppertal witnessed the opening of a small exhibition that not only explored the metaphorical conception of television as a window but also irrevocably changed the course of postwar...

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7. The Nation’s New Windows

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pp. 240-262

Throughout most of the Cold War era, Berlin—West and East—served as a display window for highly contested cultural, economic, and political attractions. Large state subsidies transformed the city’s western half into a showcase of cultural experimentation and cosmopolitan openness, a vibrating outpost whose function was to demonstrate the superiority of liberal...

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Epilogue: “Berliner Fenster”

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pp. 263-267

For a number of years now, Berlin subway authorities have been successful in distracting passengers from the underground’s absence of distractions. Similar to what can be experienced in urban transport systems in other German cities such as Hamburg, Hanover, Leipzig, and Fürth, Berlin subway users today will find almost all of the capital’s 1,200...


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pp. 269-288


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pp. 289-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780801891892
E-ISBN-10: 0801891892
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801884894
Print-ISBN-10: 0801884896

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 39 halftones
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society
Series Editor Byline: Stephen G. Nichols, Gerald Prince, and Wendy Steiner, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 503446034
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Framing Attention

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Arts and society -- Germany -- History -- 19th century.
  • Windows in art.
  • Arts, German -- 19th century.
  • Arts, German -- 20th century.
  • Arts and society -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
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