Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture

Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture

Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture

Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture

Synopsis

Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966), friend and colleague of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, was one of the most influential film critics of the mid-twentieth century. In this book, Johannes von Moltke and Kristy Rawson have, for the first time assembled essays in cultural criticism, film, literature, and media theory that Kracauer wrote during the quarter century he spent in America after fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. In the decades following his arrival in the United States, Kracauer commented on developments in American and European cinema, wrote on film noir and neorealism, examined unsettling political trends in mainstream cinema, and reviewed the contemporary experiments of avant-garde filmmakers. As a cultural critic, he also ranged far beyond cinema, intervening in debates regarding Jewish culture, unraveling national and racial stereotypes, and reflecting on the state of arts and humanities in the 1950s. These essays, together with the editors' introductions and an afterward by Martin Jay offer illuminating insights into the films and culture of the postwar years and provide a unique perspective on this eminent émigré intellectual.

Excerpt

This edition presents Kracauer’s shorter writings published in English during his years in the United States, as well as a number of unpublished materials from this period.

While we erred on the side of inclusiveness, this collection does not claim to be comprehensive. Selecting the published texts, we have made three minor exceptions: First, we have generally refrained from including published essays that subsequently appeared unchanged in Kracauer’s major works, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality, and the posthumous History: Last Things Before the Last. Because of their significance within the long gestation period of his “book on film aesthetics,” as he called it, we do, however, include a condensed version of the opening section of Theory of Film on photography, which appeared in the Magazine of Art almost a decade before the book was published, as well as a précis of passages from the Theory of Film chapter titled “The Found Story and the Episode,” which, identified as “excerpts” from the “comprehensive syllabus of his book,” was published in Film Culture in 1956. Second, we have omitted a few brief book reviews, particularly ones that basically summarize a book’s contents rather than providing an evaluation indicative of Kracauer’s own convictions; we have, however, retained all reviews, however brief, that express Kracauer’s personal methodological assumptions or intellectual leanings. Third, we have omitted here a series of important texts on the subject of propaganda and communications research, since these will be appearing in a separate edition prepared by Graehme Gilloch and Jaeho Kang. In consultation with the editors of that volume, we have striven to ensure that, together, the two anthologies will provide a comprehensive picture of Kracauer’s research and publication . . .

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