Cinema and Experience
Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of California Press
TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication
Th e question of how “to engage a living thought that is no longer historically current,” raised by Fredric Jameson with regard to Th eodor W. Adorno, has a par-ticular urgency when the body of thought revolves around the cinema, especially in today’s rapidly changing media environment.1 If that ongoing future increas-ingly became one of the concerns ticking in the background of this study, it also ...
Several institutions have generously supported the research and the writing of this book. I have held fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, as well as residential fellowships at the American Academy in Berlin and the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaft skolleg zu Berlin). Th e latter two provided stimulating environments ...
PART I. KRACAUER
1. Film, Medium of a Disintegrating World
No pacifi sm, no communism, but an aesthetic defense of the dissociated Among the fi rst generation of Critical Th eorists, Siegfried Kracauer rightly ranks as the only one who had signifi cant expertise in matters of cinema. Th is repu-tation rests largely on his two later books written in English, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947) and Th eory of Film: Th e ...
2. Curious Americanism
As we saw in the preceding chapter, Kracauer’s early refl ections on fi lm and pho-tography suggest a range of specifi c meanings that the term modernity might have for fi lm theory and fi lm history. Th ese refl ections in turn contribute to the archive of modernist aesthetics insofar as they expand the canon of aesthetic modernism to include the technological media, not just with experimental fi lm and photogra-...
PART II. BENJAMIN
3. Actuality, Antinomies
While Kracauer’s early writings on fi lm, mass culture, and modernity have barely entered English-language debates, Benjamin’s presence in these debates seems hopelessly overdetermined. During the past three decades, his famous essay “Th e Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” (1936) may have been quoted more oft en than any other single source, in areas ranging from ...
4. Aura: The Appropriation of a Concept
Benjamin’s fi rst comment on the concept of aura can be found in an unpublished report on one of his hashish experiments, dated March 1930: “Everything I said on the subject [the nature of aura] was directed polemically against the theosophists, whose inexperience and ignorance I fi nd highly repugnant. . . . First, genuine aura appears in all things, not just in certain things, as people imagine.”1 Th is assertion ...
5. Mistaking the Moon for a Ball
Designating a mode of adaptation, assimilation, and incorporation of something external and alien to the subject, the neurophysiological concept of innervation seems to belong to a fi eld of reference that couldn’t be further removed from that of aura. And yet, like the latter, the term is essential to Benjamin’s eff orts to theorize the conditions of possibility of experience in modernity. As I argue in ...
Benjamin’s refl ections on fi lm and mass culture repeatedly revolved around Disney, in particular early Mickey Mouse cartoons and Silly Symphonies.1 Adorno took issue with Benjamin’s investment in Disney, both in direct correspondence and, implicitly, in his writings on jazz and, aft er his friend’s death, in the analysis of the Culture Industry in his and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. Th ese ...
7. Play-Form of Second Nature
What is lost in the withering of semblance [Schein], or decay of the aura, in works of art is matched by a huge gain in room-for-play [Spielraum]. Th is Th e artwork essay’s rhetorical staging of a crisis that culminates in the epilogue, I argue in chapter 3, imposes a dichotomous structure upon the essay’s argu-ment.1 It does so by pitting aura and the masses, as the subject of technological ...
PART III. ADORNO
8. The Question of Film Aesthetics
Adorno’s stance on mass culture, in particular technologically produced and cir-culated media such as fi lm, has oft en enough been dismissed as mandarin, con-servative, and myopic. From the new left to cultural studies, he came to fi gure as a bad object in theory canons that enthroned Benjamin as a bourgeois intellectual who could nonetheless envision progressive, utopian dimensions of such media. ...
PART IV. KRACAUER IN EXILE
9. Theory of Film
Th eory of Film: Th e Redemption of Physical Reality (1960) could not place itself more squarely within the paradigm that seeks to derive the salient features of fi lm from its being grounded in photographic, analog representation. In the preface to that book, Kracauer famously sums up the guiding assumption of his “mate-rial aesthetics” of fi lm: “that fi lm is essentially an extension of photography and ...
Further Reading, Production Notes
Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism