Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism

Published by: University of California Press

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The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany

Kay Schiller

The 1972 Munich Olympics—remembered almost exclusively for the devastating terrorist attack on the Israeli team—were intended to showcase the New Germany and replace lingering memories of the Third Reich. That hope was all but obliterated in the early hours of September 5, when gun-wielding Palestinians murdered 11 members of the Israeli team. In the first cultural and political history of the Munich Olympics, Kay Schiller and Christopher Young set these Games into both the context of 1972 and the history of the modern Olympiad. Delving into newly available documents, Schiller and Young chronicle the impact of the Munich Games on West German society.

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Art of Suppression

Confronting the Nazi Past in Histories of the Visual and Performing Arts

Pamela M. Potter

This provocative study asks why we have held on to vivid images of the Nazis’ total control of the visual and performing arts, even though research has shown that many artists and their works thrived under Hitler. To answer this question, Potter investigates how historians since 1945 wrote about music, art, architecture, theater, film, and dance in Nazi Germany and how their accounts were colored by politics of the Cold War, the fall of communism, and the wish to preserve the idea that true art and politics cannot mix. She doesn't deny that the persecution of Jewish artists and other “enemies of the state” was a high priority in the Third Reich, but this did not erase their artistic legacies from German cultural life. Art of Suppression examines the cultural histories of the Third Reich to help us understand how the circumstances of exile, the Allied occupation of Germany, the Cold War, and the complex meanings of modernism have sustained a distorted and problematic characterization of cultural life in the Third Reich.

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The Authority of Everyday Objects

A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design

Paul Betts

From the Werkbund to the Bauhaus to Braun, from furniture to automobiles to consumer appliances, twentieth-century industrial design is closely associated with Germany. In this pathbreaking study, Paul Betts brings to light the crucial role that design played in building a progressive West German industrial culture atop the charred remains of the past. The Authority of Everyday Objects details how the postwar period gave rise to a new design culture comprising a sprawling network of diverse interest groups—including the state and industry, architects and designers, consumer groups and museums, as well as publicists and women's organizations—who all identified industrial design as a vital means of economic recovery, social reform, and even moral regeneration. These cultural battles took on heightened importance precisely because the stakes were nothing less than the very shape and significance of West German domestic modernity. Betts tells the rich and far-reaching story of how and why commodity aesthetics became a focal point for fashioning a certain West German cultural identity. This book is situated at the very crossroads of German industry and aesthetics, Cold War politics and international modernism, institutional life and visual culture.

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Berlin Electropolis

Shock, Nerves, and German Modernity

Andreas Killen

Berlin Electropolis ties the German discourse on nervousness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to Berlin's transformation into a capital of the second industrial revolution. Focusing on three key groups—railway personnel, soldiers, and telephone operators—Andreas Killen traces the emergence in the 1880s and then later decline of the belief that modernity caused nervous illness. During this period, Killen explains, Berlin became arguably the most advanced metropolis in Europe. A host of changes, many associated with breakthroughs in technologies of transportation, communication, and leisure, combined to radically alter the shape and tempo of everyday life in Berlin. The resulting consciousness of accelerated social change and the shocks and afflictions that accompanied it found their consummate expression in the discourse about nervousness.

Wonderfully researched and clearly written, this book offers a wealth of new insights into the nature of the modern metropolis, the psychological aftermath of World War I, and the operations of the German welfare state. Killen also explores cultural attitudes toward electricity, the evolution of psychiatric thought and practice, and the status of women workers in Germany's rapidly industrializing economy. Ultimately, he argues that the backlash against the welfare state that occurred during the late Weimar Republic brought about the final decoupling of modernity and nervous illness.

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Berlin Psychoanalytic

Psychoanalysis and Culture in Weimar Republic Germany and Beyond

Veronika Fuechtner

One hundred years after the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute was established, this book recovers the cultural and intellectual history connected to this vibrant organization and places it alongside the London Bloomsbury group, the Paris Surrealist circle, and the Viennese fin-de-siècle as a crucial chapter in the history of modernism. Taking us from World War I Berlin to the Third Reich and beyond to 1940s Palestine and 1950s New York—and to the influential work of the Frankfurt School—Veronika Fuechtner traces the network of artists and psychoanalysts that began in Germany and continued in exile. Connecting movements, forms, and themes such as Dada, multi-perspectivity, and the urban experience with the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, she illuminates themes distinctive to the Berlin psychoanalytic context such as war trauma, masculinity and femininity, race and anti-Semitism, and the cultural avant-garde. In particular, she explores the lives and works of Alfred Döblin, Max Eitingon, Georg Groddeck, Karen Horney, Richard Huelsenbeck, Count Hermann von Keyserling, Ernst Simmel, and Arnold Zweig.

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Cinema and Experience

Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno

Miriam Hansen

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.

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Cool Conduct

The Culture of Distance in Weimar Germany

Helmut Lethen

Cool Conduct is an elegant interpretation of attitudes and mentalities that informed the Weimar Republic by a scholar well known for his profound knowledge of this period. Helmut Lethen writes of "cool conduct" as a cultivated antidote to the heated atmosphere of post-World War I Germany, as a way of burying shame and animosity that might otherwise make social contact impossible.

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Metropolis Berlin

1880–1940

Iain Boyd Whyte

Metropolis Berlin: 1880-1940 reconstitutes the built environment of Berlin during the period of its classical modernity using over two hundred contemporary texts, virtually all of which are published in English translation for the first time. They are from the pens of those who created Berlin as one of the world’s great cities and those who observed this process: architects, city planners, sociologists, political theorists, historians, cultural critics, novelists, essayists, and journalists. Divided into nineteen sections, each prefaced by an introductory essay, the account unfolds chronologically, with the particular structural concerns of the moment addressed in sequence—be they department stores in 1900, housing in the 1920s, or parade grounds in 1940. Metropolis Berlin: 1880-1940 not only details the construction of Berlin, but explores homes and workplaces, public spaces, circulation, commerce, and leisure in the German metropolis as seen through the eyes of all social classes, from the humblest inhabitants of the city slums, to the great visionaries of the modern city, and the demented dictator resolved to remodel Berlin as Germania.

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No Place Like Home

Locations of Heimat in German Cinema

Johannes von Moltke

This is the first comprehensive account of Germany's most enduring film genre, the Heimatfilm, which has offered idyllic variations on the idea that "there is no place like home" since cinema's early days. Charting the development of this popular genre over the course of a century in a work informed by film studies, cultural history, and social theory, Johannes von Moltke focuses in particular on its heyday in the 1950s, a period that has been little studied. Questions of what it could possibly mean to call the German nation "home" after the catastrophes of World War II are anxiously present in these films, and von Moltke uses them as a lens through which to view contemporary discourses on German national identity.

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Rosenzweig and Heidegger

Between Judaism and German Philosophy

Peter Gordon

Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) is widely regarded today as one of the most original and intellectually challenging figures within the so-called renaissance of German-Jewish thought in the Weimar period. The architect of a unique kind of existential theology, and an important influence upon such philosophers as Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, Leo Strauss, and Emmanuel Levinas, Rosenzweig is remembered chiefly as a "Jewish thinker," often to the neglect of his broader philosophical concerns. Cutting across the artificial divide that the traumatic memory of National Socialism has drawn between German and Jewish philosophy, this book seeks to restore Rosenzweig's thought to the German philosophical horizon in which it first took shape. It is the first English-language study to explore Rosenzweig's enduring debt to Hegel's political theory, neo-Kantianism, and life-philosophy; the book also provides a new, systematic reading of Rosenzweig's major work, The Star of Redemption.

Most of all, the book sets out to explore a surprising but deep affinity between Rosenzweig’s thought and that of his contemporary, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Resisting both apologetics and condemnation, Gordon suggests that Heidegger’s engagement with Nazism should not obscure the profound and intellectually compelling bond in the once-shared tradition of modern German and Jewish thought. A remarkably lucid discussion of two notably difficult thinkers, this book represents an eloquent attempt to bridge the forced distinction between modern Jewish thought and the history of modern German philosophy—and to show that such a distinction cannot be sustained without doing violence to both.

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