SoSe 13: 'Literarization of all the Conditions of Life'. Avant-garde, Politics, and Media in Weimar-Germany
The seminar examines the rise of mass media with regard to its cultural, artistic, and political impact in Weimar Germany. Reflecting on Marxist avant-garde, especially the works of Sergei Tretyakov ... read more
The seminar examines the rise of mass media with regard to its cultural, artistic, and political impact in Weimar Germany. Reflecting on Marxist avant-garde, especially the works of Sergei Tretyakov and Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin (1931/34) coined the formula of a "literarization of all the conditions of life". Literarization refers to the media transformation of the modern life-world. It is not only the electrified city surface of the roaring twenties that - literally - becomes scripture (as in billboards) but also the mass media framed perception of human artifacts and nature that, according to Benjamin, gives rise to a literarization. Modern life is technologically mediated - and these modes of mediation, its media, do not only affect its recipients but also the mediated itself and turn it into litterae, visual scripture, ciphers.
Focusing on photography, architecture, theatre, and film, the seminar explores four iconic case studies of literarization and their media-aesthetic, social and political modes of production: (1) photomontage (John Heartfield), (2) Bauhaus (Walter Gropius, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy); (3) Epic theatre (Bertolt Brecht); (4) Avantgarde film (Walter Ruttmann, Sergei Eisenstein). As a theoretical framework, the seminar will also discuss contemporaneous reflections by Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin. Especially Benjamin’s media-aesthetic writings of the 1930s can be regarded as an early theorization of the term "political media" laying bare its dialectic in terms of the politics of media (‘politicization’) and the media of politics (‘aesthetization’).
Students will be expected to be acquainted with different forms of media and presentation modes and to be able to read complex theoretical texts.
German (desirable, at least basic reading skills)
Reading list (selection):
Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media, ed. by Michael W. Jennings; Brigid Doherty; Thomas Y. Levin, transl. by Howard Eiland Edmund Jephcott; Rodney Livingstone, et al., Cambridge, Mass., 2008.
-- : Little History of Photography, in ibid.
-- : The Author as Producer, in ibid.
-- : The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility (Second Version), in ibid.
Bertolt Brecht: Brecht on Film and Radio, ed. and transl. by Marc Silberman, London, 2001.
-- : Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, ed. and transl. by John Willett, London, 1964.
David C Durst: Weimar modernism. Philosophy, Politics, and Culture in Germany, 1918 – 1933, Lanham, 2004.
Sergei Eisenstein: Towards a Theory of Montage, ed. and transl. by Michael Glenny, London, 2010.
David Evans; Sylvia Grohl: Photomontage: A Political Weapon, London, 1986.
John Heartfield: Krieg im Frieden. Fotomontagen zur Zeit 1930-1938, München, 1972.
Siegfried Kracauer: The Mass Ornament. Weimar Essays, ed. and transl. by Thomas Y. Levin, Harvard 1995.
László Moholy-Nagy: Painting, Photography, Film, Cambridge, Mass., 1969.
Janet Ward: Weimar Surfaces : Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany, Berkeley, 2001.
Hans Wingler: Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, Cambridge, 1978. close